Cerium, element 58, like tellurium and uranium, was part of a fad at the turn of the 19th century for naming recently discovered elements after heavenly bodies. In this case, cerium is named for Ceres, the asteroid/dwarf planet, then regarded as a planet, which had been discovered in 1801. Ceres was, of course, the Roman goddess of agriculture; our word cereal comes from her name as well.

Cerium was discovered in 1803 by Swedish and German chemists working independently: Jöns Jakob Berzelius and Wilhelm Hisinger in Sweden and Karl Martin Klaproth in Germany. Berzelius got the honors of conferring the name on the element. William Nicholson writes about the discovery in 1804 in the Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and the Arts in an article titled:

Account of Cerium, a New Metal found in a Mineral Substance from Bastnas in Sweden.1

Cerium has the chemical symbol Ce.

1Oxford English Dictionary, cerium, 2nd Edition, 1989, Oxford University Press, accessed 14 October 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50035902.

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