Element 101 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is mendelevium, most notable for being named after the father of the modern periodic table.
Mendelevium, like all of the elements in the last reaches of the periodic table, has no uses outside of scientific research, on account of its fleeting nature. However, it is distinguished in being named aftet the scientist most frequently associated with the periodic table.
Dmitri Mendeleev is credited with coming up with the first iteration of the modern periodic table back in 1869. It’s worth emphasising that he was far from the first scientist to try and organise the elements: in fact, a few years earlier, William Odling devised a version of the periodic table organising the elements by atomic weight which bore remarkable similarities to Mendeleev’s.
What Mendeleev did do, which others had not, was leave gaps for undiscovered elements and make predictions regarding their properties. The uncanny accuracy of his predictions is a large part of why he gets credit as the ‘creator’ of the periodic table.
Mendelevium was almost element 97 rather than 101. Although element 97 was discovered by US scientists in 1949, Soviet Union scientists also claimed its discovery shortly after and proposed the name mendelevium. Although their claim was rejected, and element 97 was eventually named berkelium, they eventually got their wish with element 101.
Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.