Hulubei was understandably very concerned with Paneth’s editorial and the implication that his work and that of Cauchois had been refuted. He responded by attributing Paneth’s omission to the difficulties in communication during the war. He denied that Karlik and Bernert had refuted his research on element 85, adding the words, “contrary to what one would think after reading the expose of Mr. Paneth.” Soon afterward Karlik finally did comment on Hulubei’s work, claiming that the research had been insufficient to merit the discovery of element 85 because of the very small amount of element 85 in their sample, which would render likely some interferences from other elements in the X-ray spectra.
Meanwhile, in response to Paneth’s editorial, three Berkeley researchers claiming to have produced element 85 artificially— Corson, MacKenzie, and the previously mentioned Emilio Segrè— proposed the name “astatine” from the Greek astatos, or unstable. The authors had not been aware of the claims from Hulubei and Karlik but had delayed proposing a name for the element because of the continuing claims for alabamine by Allison and his supporters. Furthermore, Paneth, who was by now the chair of the committee of the International Union of Chemistry, approved the name of astatine in 1949, thus further lending his support to the American claim.
According to the analysis of Thornton and Burdette, there is no doubt that three teams of researchers can claim to have discovered element 85. First of all, they state that:
Unlike other flawed studies with X-ray spectroscopy, Hulubei and Cauchois indisputably had element 85 in their samples. The only uncertainty is whether their instrument was sensitive enough to distinguish the spectral lines of element 85.
One additional argument they offer for this claim is that, in the 1930s, Hulubei and Cauchois were able to clearly detect the Lα line for the element polonium, which has a 500-fold lower transition intensity than the lines they claimed to have seen in the case of element 85. Moreover, they add that the experiments carried out by their Portuguese student, Valadares, would have tripled the intensity in the claimed X-ray lines for element 85 because he used a radon source, which is three times more powerfully radioactive.
The reasons why Hulubei and Cauchois have never received much credit for their work have already been mentioned. They include Paneth’s disparaging words to the effect that “other work” on element 85 had been refuted even though Hulubei and Cauchois’s work had not. In addition, Thornton and Burdette attribute the lack of credit to the fact that Hulubei in particular had falsely claimed the discovery of element 87 and that he had definitely been wrong in that case. They propose that this earlier error caused others to doubt Hulubei, even though he had detected element 85.
Helvetium and Anglohelvetium
In 1940, the Swiss physicist Walter Minder (1905–1992), claimed to have observed an extremely weak β decay of radium A. For this purpose he connected a couple of ionization chambers with an electrometer. He also believed that his chemical tests confirmed the analogies of this element with iodine. Minder named it helvetium and gave it the symbol Hv, after the Latin name for Switzerland. Nature Magazine reported Minder’s findings in an abstract by announcing that he had succeeded in isolating element 85 and that he had done so from the decomposition of the radioactive element actinium. The abstract also noted that Minder had named his new element helvetium to honor his own country. It continued by expressing the hope that further details would soon be available, adding that the London Evening News had remarked,