from promethes "thinking before," from pro- "before" + mathein "to learn," from enlargement of PIE base *men- "to think" (see mathematic
). Before the introduction of modern matches (see lucifer
), prometheus was the name given (early 19c.) to small glass tubes full of sulphuric acid, surrounded by an inflammable mixture, which ignited when pressed and gave off light. Promethium, the metallic rare earth element, was so called by discoverers G.A. Marinsky and L.E. Henden in 1948.