Vanderbilt’s contribution to Tennessine

hamiltonI’ve known Vanderbilt Physics Professor Joe Hamilton since the 1990s, when he served on the steering panel for a series of studies that assessed the health impacts of environmental releases from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge facilities.

He wrote today to express his disappointment with my story earlier this week about Element 117, a new element that has been provisionally named “Tennessine.” He said Vanderbilt University didn’t receive proper credit, and he explained why.

Here’s the text of his message about Vanderbilt’s role in the discovery and confirmation:

“I saw your article in the Knoxville News Sentinel on New Elements today. I was very disappointed in the headlines and the opening paragraph.

” Vanderbilt initiated the efforts to  make the new element 117 and enlisted Jim Roberto in the effort. I am in fact the person who first  proposed to name it after the State of Tennessee to honor ORNL and VU who played the key roles in the discovery and this name was accepted in conference by the four members of the cooperation for submission to IUPAC, later joined by UT in the second  experiment.

“So the headlines should have read ORNL, VU, UT. Then the first line should have read ‘Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Vanderbilt University played key roles in the 2010 discovery… ‘  It is not essential that you write that I first proposed the name tennessine. However, it would be nice if Vanderbilt could be acknowledged for its key role because without me initiating how to get the Bk and bring Oganessian and Roberto together to begin a cooperation there would most likely be no 117 (Oganessian had tried to get a Bk source from ORNL and no one would help him so he came to me and I spent 3.5 years working to get the Bk before I got Oganessian and Roberto together to form the cooperation and then asked LLNL to join us and help provide another $100,000 for the chemical separation. We got $500,000 from a proposal we  wrote Jim for  the chemical separation).

“I have no problem with ORNL being highlighted and J. Roberto being quoted because this is their local newspaper. I just would have liked local people to know that Vanderbilt also played a key role. Perhaps there can be a follow up article.”

photo credit: Vanderbilt University

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.