My Story Starts…

… one quiet day at Berkeley University in 1944. My good friends Glenn T. Seaborg, Ralph A. James, and Albert Ghiorso were the first ones to notice me, I like to think that it gave us a special bond.

That was when I was discovered, but I was first chemically identified at the Metallurgical Laboratory (I think that it’s called the Argonne National Laboratory now) at the University of Chicago.

I was the third transuranium element discovered, it took some time for Americium to be discovered even though she is before me, she is such a dear but so light that it took her forever to be noticed.

There is, of course, the very long and boring story of exactly how I was discovered but I can’t imagine why anyone would want to hear that. Oh, you do? Well I really can’t recall the entire thing, but my friend Rachel Sheremeta Pepling describes the occasion wonderfully in her book, “Chemical & Engineering News: It’s Elemental: The Periodic Table- Americium.” Here is the most interesting but, where she is talking about me:

“The sample was prepared as follows: first plutonium  nitrate solution was coated on a platinum foil of about 0.5 cm2 area, the solution was evaporated and the residue was converted into plutonium dioxide (PuO2) by annealing . Following cyclotron irradiation of the oxide, the coating was dissolved with nitric acid and then precipitated as the hydroxide using concentrated aqueous ammonia solution. The residue was dissolved in perchloric acid, and further separation was carried out by ion exchange to yield a certain isotope of curium. The separation of curium and americium was so painstaking that the Berkeley group initially called those elements pandemonium (from Greek for all demons or hell) and delirium  (from Latin for madness).”

There, now wasn’t that lovely?


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