Samarium is a rare earth element that - indirectly - has the distinction of being the first naturally occurring chemical element to be named after a living person. Its chemical symbol is Sm and has an atomic number of 62. Samarium was isolated from and named after the mineral Samarskite which was discovered near the small town of Miass in the southern Ural mountains in 1847. The mineral was named by the German Mineralogist Heinrich Rose after Vasili Samarsky-Bykhovets, Chief of Staff of the Russian Corps of Mining Engineers between 1845 and 1861 who had given Rose the ore sample to study.
Although Samarium was discovered in 1853 by the Swiss chemist Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac - who first observed its sharp absorption lines in didymium - it was not until 1879 that it was isolated in Paris by the French chemist Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran using a sample from a newly located ore body in North Carolina.