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G.R. Choppin and coworkers first discovered fermium, named after the atomic physicist, Enrico Fermi, in 1952. Like einsteinium, this element was isolated in the debris from a hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean.

Fermium can only be obtained in millionth-of-a-gram proportions from nuclear reactors. The longest-recorded half-life of a fermium isotope is 80 days for fermium-257. While the chemical properties of this radioactive metal are largely unknown, scientists believe that fermium has no biological role. Only if mass-produced could fermium pose a threat to human health.