From Russia…

America was not the only country involved in element discovery in the middle of the 20th Century. Russian scientists too were intent on adding to the Periodic Table and their contribution was initiated by Soviet physicist Georgy Flerov.

Like Seaborg in America, Flerov had been involved in developing his country’s first atomic bomb. In fact, it was only because of his temerity that Russia began a nuclear weapons program. Flerov had realised early in World War II that the literature on nuclear science coming out of America had completely dried up. This could only mean one thing: that US atomic research was focussed on weapons. Concerned that Russia had made no steps in this direction and having failed to convince his superiors, Flerov wrote directly to Stalin and told him exactly what was needed. Thankfully for Flerov, Stalin admired his boldness and the project took off.

After the war, Flerov turned his thoughts to element discovery and in 1956 the Joint Institute of Nuclear Research was founded in Dubna near Moscow. In the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions nine elements have been discovered, beginning under Flerov’s leadership and continuing with Yuri Oganessian (after whom the element oganesson is named). The earlier discoveries, including element 105, dubnium, were made in the 1960s when competition between the Russian and US teams was intense. Credit was awarded jointly to both teams for three of these four elements, made independently but at around the same time. As the years passed and cold-war competition could be laid aside, transatlantic cooperation led to the joint discoveries of the last five elements in the table as it currently stands, including flerovium at number 114.

To represent flerovium I have used a hammer and sickle and ‘red’ star for the Soviet era of Flerov’s research. Dubnium is represented by an onion dome as the Moscow Oblast, the region in which Dubna is located, is known for its traditional orthodox churches.

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