Chemical Element: rutherfordium

(Modern Latin: named for Ernest Rutherford, a New Zealand physicist and chemist; radioactive metal)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: Rf
Atomic number: 104
Year discovered: 1969

Discovered by: Albert Ghiorso (born July 15, 1915) and co-workers at the University of California, Berkeley, USA.

  • In 1964, scientists at Dubna, Russia, claimed discovery of element 104 and suggested the name “kurchatovium” and the symbol Ku in honor of Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov (1903-1960), who led the team that developed the Soviet nuclear bomb.
  • In 1969, an American group at Berkeley, California, reported the formation of isotopes for Element 104.
  • They also indicated that they were unable to reproduce the earlier Russian synthesis from 1964.
  • The Americans proposed “rutherfordium” (Rf) for the new element in honor of the New Zealand physicist, Ernest R. Rutherford.
  • Rutherfordium (Rf) is now the preferred IUPAC name for Element 104.
  • This element was previously called unnilquadium, Ung, which is the Latin equivalent for the number “104”; but it was changed because scientists, and others, thought it was too complicated to remember.
  • In addition to unnilquadium (Ung), the proposed names for Element 104 before the official name was chosen by the International Union of Pure and applied Chemistry were rutherfordium (Rf) and kurchtovium (Ku); as indicated above in the first paragraph.
  • Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) was a New Zealand physicist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908.
  • His research in radiation and atomic structure were basic to later 20th-century developments in nuclear physics.
  • Rutherford, together with J. Chadwick and C. Ellis, wrote Radiations from Radioactive Substances (1930), an authoritative reference about radiation.

Name in other languages:

French: rutherfordium

German: Rutherfordium

Italian: rutherfordio

Spanish: rutherfordio

Dated March 29, 1999, Time magazine had a special issue called, “The Century’s Greatest Minds” in which the publisher did not mention several renowned scientists.

As a result, the Monday, March 29, 1999, issue of USA Today had the following article:

“New Zealand scientists are upset at the omission of the so-called ‘father of nuclear science,’ Sir Ernest Rutherford, from Time magazine’s series on the most influential people of the 20th century, The Sunday Star-Times reported: "Rutherford, born in New Zealand in 1871, won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1908 for his discoveries on the nature of the atom and is widely regarded as the founder of nuclear physics.”

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.