Polonium: it's much more than just a convenient way to assassinate people. In fact, it's among the most interesting elements on the periodic table, for one reason: it's the only element named to highlight a 19th century political controversy. Marie Curie discovered in it in 1898 and named it for her then-beleaguered homeland, Poland. Tangled in a web of domineering control between neighboring Austria, Germany and Russia, Poland's quiet struggle for independence needed all the publicity it could get "“ and while having a rare metalloid named for you ain't exactly a two-page spread in the Times, it's the thought that counts. (Perhaps the assassin of ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko chose the radioactive isotope Polonium-210 as his murder weapon in order to draw attention to Poland's troubled history. We can only speculate.)