2 Replies Latest reply: Feb 23, 2013 5:46 PM by Yves Revi RSS

Eponyms in Chemistry: Possessive or Nonpossessive?

Yves Revi

I recently think about this while working on my presentation I'll give at university.

 

Is it "Grubbs's catalyst" or "Grubbs catalyst"?

 

The ACS Style Guide gives some examples:

Avogrado's number

Well, why not "Avogrado number"? The number isn't his, and he didn't find it either.

 

Boltzmann constant

He didn't introduce it. So, no possessive attribute is necessary, and this example is fine.

 

Einstein's theory

He introduced the famous theory. So, the possessive attribute is fine.

 

To sum up, when should we use the possessive attribute and when not? I personally prefer that the apostrophe-and-letter-s is used only when indicating a clear possession. Robert Grubbs introduced the famous catalyst, and we may thus call it "Grubbs's catalyst". But because the impact of the catalyst is so widespread, we can call it "Grubbs catalyst". On a side, but important, note, no name reaction uses apostrophe and letter "s".

 

Do you guys have thoughts on this? It's driving me mad, and I demand the mighty American Chemical Society to come up with a clear solution without loopholes.

  • Re: Eponyms in Chemistry: Possessive or Nonpossessive?
    Carlotta Shearson

    The CSE and AMA style manuals, which of course don't apply to ACS publications, are more definitive on this question: both recommend using the nonpossessive forms in most cases. That said, until the ACS meets your demand, I suggest that you do a quick Google Scholar search to determine which version of any particular term is used most commonly in the literature, and then use that version consistently in whatever document you're preparing. You can prepare you own personal style sheet listing these kinds of things, so you don't have to look them up repeatedly.