As of 2017, there are 21 elements named after people (element eponyms), although the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) sometimes considers the connection to a person to be indirect. In other words, sometimes the element name was chosen to honor a place or thing, indirectly connecting it to someone’s name.
Fun Fact: No one has ever named an element after himself!
List of Elements Named After People
Here’s a list of element eponyms in alphabetical order, with their element symbols and atomic numbers.
Americium (Am, 95) – Indirectly honors the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci
Berkelium (Bk, 97) – Indirectly honors the Irish philosopher George Berkeley, after whom the Lawrence-Berkeley lab takes its name.
Bohrium (Bh, 107) – Niels Bohr
Copernicium (Cn, 112) – Nicolaus Copernicus
Curium (Cm, 96) – Pierre and Marie Curie
Einsteinium (Es, 99) – Albert Einstein
Fermium (Fm, 100) – Enrico Fermi
Flerovium (Fl, 114) – Georgy Flerov
Gallium (Ga, 31) – both named after Gallia (Latin for France) and its discoverer, Lecoq de Boisbaudran (le coq, the French word for ‘rooster’ translates to gallus in Latin)
Gadolinium (Gd, 64) – Johan Gadolin
Hahnium (105) – Otto Hahn (Dubnium, named for Dubna in Russia, is the IUPAC-accepted name for element 105)
Lawrencium (Lr, 103) – Ernest Lawrence
Livermorium (Lv, 116) – Livermorium is named to honor the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, in Livermore, California, which is in turn named after a rancher, who had the last name of (you guessed it) Livermore!
Meitnerium (Mt, 109) – Lise Meitner
Mendelevium (Md, 101) – Dmitri Mendeleev
Nobelium (No, 102) – Alfred Nobel
Oganesson (Og, 118) – Yuri Oganessian, who has the distinction of being alive when an element was named in his honor.
Roentgenium (Rg, 111) – Wilhelm Roentgen (formerly Ununumium)
Rutherfordium (Rf, 104) – Ernest Rutherford
Samarium (Sm, 62) – The first element named in honor of a person. Samarium is named for its ore, samarskite, which in turn is named for V.E. Samarsky-Bukjovets, the Russian engineer who allowed researchers access to him mineral samples.
Seaborgium (Sg, 106) – Glenn T. Seaborg