Attempting Neutrality: IUPAC, IUPAP, and the Resolution of a Cold War Scientific Controversy

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Abstract Summary

Beginning in the 1950s, two laboratories – one in the United States and one in the Soviet Union – engaged in the synthesis of elements with an atomic number greater than 100 (a third laboratory, in West Germany, began production in the 1980s).  Each relied on different methods for synthesis and detection of atoms of these elements which resulted in competing discovery claims, and sometimes competing element names.  These controversies were often acrimonious and occasionally spilled over into the general scientific community.  Both sides appealed to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), the body with control over the naming of new elements, to settle the matter.  In the 1970s, the IUPAC approached the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) about forming a so-called joint neutral group to study the problem and suggest a solution.  This group was far from neutral and failed to even meet, much less come up with a solution.  In the 1980s, the IUPAP decided to take matters into their own hands and create a new group with the IUPAC to end to discovery controversies.  The IUPAP was very aware of the need β€œto avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest,” and attempted to form as neutral a group as possible.  This paper will examine the joint attempts at neutrality by two international scientific organizations in the resolution of an interdisciplinary Cold War controversy.

Abstract ID :
Submission Type
Part of Organized Session
Abstract Topic
Physical Sciences