Thanks to Dr. Eric Scerri for suggesting this interesting post:
In his report on The Periodic Law of the Chemical Elements, in 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev had implicitly predicted the existence of a heavier analog of titanium and zirconium. At the time of his formulation in 1871, Mendeleev believed that the elements were ordered by their atomic masses and placed lanthanum (element 57) in the spot below zirconium. The exact placement of the elements and the location of missing elements was done by determining the specific weight of the elements and comparing the chemical and physical properties.
The X-ray spectroscopy done by Henry Moseley in 1914 showed a direct dependency between spectral line and effective nuclear charge. This led to the nuclear charge, or atomic number of an element, being used to ascertain its place within the periodic table. With this method, Moseley determined the number of lanthanides and showed the gaps in the atomic number sequence at numbers 43, 61, 72, and 75.
The discovery of the gaps led to an extensive search for the missing elements. In 1914, several people claimed the discovery after Henry Moseley predicted the gap in the periodic table for the then-undiscovered element 72. Georges Urbain asserted that he found element 72 in the rare earth elements in 1907 and published his results on celtium in 1911. Neither the spectra nor the chemical behavior matched with the element found later, and therefore his claim was turned down after a long-standing controversy. The controversy was partly because the chemists favored the chemical techniques which led to the discovery of celtium, while the physicists relied on the use of the new X-ray spectroscopy method that proved that the substances discovered by Urbain did not contain element 72. By early 1923, several physicists and chemists such as Niels Bohr and Charles R. Bury suggested that element 72 should resemble zirconium and therefore was not part of the rare earth elements group. These suggestions were based on Bohr’s theories of the atom, the X-ray spectroscopy of Mosley, and the chemical arguments of Friedrich Paneth.
Encouraged by these suggestions and by the reappearance in 1922 of Urbain’s claims that element 72 was a rare earth element discovered in 1911, Dirk Coster and Georg von Hevesy were motivated to search for the new element in zirconium ores. Hafnium was discovered by the two in 1923 in Copenhagen, Denmark, validating the original 1869 prediction of Mendeleev. It was ultimately found in zircon in Norway through X-ray spectroscopy analysis. The place where the discovery took place led to the element being named for the Latin name for “Copenhagen”, Hafnia, the home town of Niels Bohr. Today, the Faculty of Science of the University of Copenhagen uses in its seal a stylized image of the hafnium atom.
Edited from Hafnium
An interesting anecdote regarding George Hevesy -
When the Nazis invaded Denmark in 1940, Hevesy was worried that they would steal the golden Nobel medals of Max von Laue and James Franck, so he dissolved them in aqua regia. He put the bottles on a shelf, among other solutions and after the war ended in 1945, he precipitated the gold out, and the Nobel Society recast the medals using that gold! – Deskarati -