Which Country Has The Highest Number Of Atomic Element Discoveries To Its Name?
Answer: The United Kingdom
When we talk about elemental discoveries, we typically talk about them in terms of who discovered them. Rutherford discovered nitrogen, Davy discovered potassium, Curie discovered radium, and so on.
But what if you organize the periodic table according to the countries hosting the scientists doing the discovering? In 2013, PhD student Jamie Gallagher mapped out the entire periodic table by flagging each element with the country in which it was discovered.
Under such organization, it is revealed that The United Kingdom leads by a solid margin with 23 total elements, edging out Sweden and Germany (tied with 19), and The United States and France (following behind and tied with 17).
What’s interesting about Gallagher’s way of organizing the period table is how, when viewed in sum, it offers a sort of historical overview of the history of elemental exploration. Many of the elements discovered by scientists working in the United Kingdom, for example, were discovered in the 18th and 19th centuries and include common elements like sodium, magnesium, and calcium that had not, despite being common and abundant, been isolated by the scientific community. Conversely, the majority of elemental discoveries belonging to the United States are in the metallic/radioactive section of the periodic table, like einsteinium and fermium, and were a direct result of America’s extensive nuclear weapons program in the mid-20th century.
Image courtesy of Jamie Gallagher.