Chemical Element: promethium

(Modern Latin: named for the Greek god Prometheus, who stole fire from heaven [the sun] for mankind; radioactive metal rare earth)


Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: Pm
Atomic number: 61
Year discovered: 1945

Discovered by: Charles Du Bois Coryell (born 1912), J.A. Marinsky, and L.E. Glendenin.


  • A number of investigators in the past had claimed to have proven the existence of element 61 in naturally occurring rare earths; among the names they applied were illimium and florentium.
  • A group at Ohio State University (USA) claimed element 61 in experiments involving its synthesis in a cyclotron, but again the evidence did not satisfy everyone.
  • In 1947, Marinsky, Glendenin, and Coryell, at the Oak Ridge, Tennesee, research site, made the first chemical identification of promethium by use of ion-exchange chromatography on residues in a nuclear reactor.
  • The name of promethium is derived from Prometheus, who in Greek mythology stole fire from heaven (the gods) and gave it to mankind; an appropriate name, since the element comes from the fierce fires of the atomic furnace.
  • Although promethium salts have been used for miniature batteries, the main use of the element is for research.

Name in other languages:

French: prom├ęthium

German: Promethium

Italian: prometio

Spanish: prometio


Information about other elements may be seen at this Chemical Elements List.

A special unit about words that include chemo-, chem- may be seen here.