Hulubei studied in France starting in 1916, returning to his native Romania after World War I had ended in 1918. In 1926, he came back to France to work with Jean Perrin and built an X-ray laboratory at the Sorbonne University. In 1928, they were joined by Yvette Cauchois, who built what later became known as the Cauchois spectrometer, which provided higher resolution spectra and made possible the study of weaker spectra than had previously been observed. Hulubei and Cauchois examined the radioactivity of radon in the hope of observing evidence of the presence of element 85. In a paper published in 1936, they claimed to have observed a line at 151 X-units, or siegbahns, precisely where the Kα1 line for eka-iodine was expected. In 1939, they reported two further X-ray lines consistent with the presence of eka-iodine and the predictions from Moseley’s law. These new experiments used higher resolutions than the earlier ones and included further checks and balances, which led to greater confidence in the authors’ claims to having discovered the new element. In 1941, a former student of Hulubei and Cauchois, Manuel Valadares, repeated the experiments with a stronger X-ray source after returning to his native Portugal. He then published his results, which also suggested the presence of eka-iodine.
In 1942, additional scientists entered the discussion on the new element. Two women, Berta Karlik and Traude Bernert, working at the Institute for Radium Research in Vienna, reported the detection of α particles emanating from the radioactive decay of a radon isotope. They also took this decay to indicate the presence of element 85 in part of a natural radioactive decay series. By this time the artificial synthesis of element 85, which is generally considered to be the definitive discovery of the element, had been conducted at Berkeley. The Austrian researchers were unaware of this fact, however, due to lack of communication during wartime.
In an article of 1944, Hulubei wrote a detailed summary of his work and that of others on element 85. This included a description of six X-ray lines that were thought to be due to natural radioactive decay producing the new element. He also appealed to the work of Karlik as providing support for his own findings. This time Hulubei went as far as to suggest a name for the new element, “dor,” which he took from the Romanian word for “longing” in the sense of “longing for peace.” This name represented an interesting shift away from naming elements in a nationalistic manner that had prevailed in the recent past.
As World War II drew to a close and some elements began to be produced artificially, it became important to decide on how elements should be named and who would have the right to give them new names. This task was taken up by the Austrian-born radiochemist Friedrich Paneth, who had fled from Berlin to the United Kingdom in 1936 after being dismissed from his professorship because of his Jewish origins. Paneth published an editorial in Nature magazine in 1947, which among other things would have the effect of depriving any discovery claims from Hulubei and Cauchois. As mentioned before, Paneth suggested that in cases in which an element had been given different names by competing groups, the naming rights should go to those who produced the element in a reproducible fashion. This meant that, in the case of element 43, the Noddacks’ claim for masurium should be dismissed and should be replaced by technetium, as synthesized by Segrè and Perrier.
Paneth noted the claim by the Berkeley group for the synthesis of element 85 and also the fact that Karlik and Bernert had showed that it exists in natural sources. But he went on to state that what he called “former claims,” without naming any particular researchers, had been disproved by the work of Karlik and Bernert. This is a rather crucial statement because it served to discredit the work of Hulubei and Cauchois, even though Karlik and Bernert had not actually addressed these claims whereas Paneth’s statement implied that they had.