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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 13 Issue 6 (2008) pp 358-364

Fred Allison's Magneto-Optic Search for Elements 85 and 87

George B. Kauffman* and Jean-Pierre Adloff

Honorary Professor, Université Louis Pasteur, 63 Rue Saint Urbain, Strasbourg, France F-67100,, Department of Chemistry, California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA 93740-8034,

Published online: 1 December 2008

Abstract. During the mid-1920s, two unfilled places with atomic number 85 (eka-iodine) and 87 (eka-cesium) remained in the terminal portion of the periodic system. Since no stable element beyond bismuth (atomic number 83) had ever been found, it was obvious that they should be radioactive. During the late 1920s and early 1930s Fred Allison (1882–1974) at the Department of Physics of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute used his controversial magneto-optic method of chemical analysis to search for these elements. He claimed to have discovered elements 85 and 87, which he christened alabamine and virginium, respectively. Although other researchers attempted to replicate his results, they were unsuccessful. Astatine and francium were eventually discovered in 1940 and 1939, respectively.

Key Words: Chemistry and History; inorganic chemistry; spectroscopy; discovery of the elements; spurious discoveries; magneto-optic method of chemical analysis; periodic table; prediction of elements; radioactive elements; American chemistry

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

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Issue date: December 1, 2008

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