greek letter syntax in MathML

i do not usually read nor write to the "www-math" mailing list. however, my
friend bruce smith drew my attention to it, because i asked him about the
"official" syntax of greek letters some time ago. so i would just like to
voice my own preference here, which is not actually for an application of a
mathematical, but a chemical nature. (this is why i have now decided to
also copy in the "chemime" mailing list, because it theoretically ought to
be of interest to them as well.)

i collaborate on a project called "ecocyc", which is a metabolic
knowledge-base of the bacterium e.coli. it is essentially an electronic
biochemistry textbook, and contains references to the primary literature,
and so it can also serve as an electronic review article. more info at:


the names of some of the chemical compounds contain greek letters. an
example of a reaction which contains two such compounds is the following:


in this reaction, the greek letters are embedded in a gif image, so this
case is already taken care of. however, when clicking on one of the
compounds and looking at the corresponding description of it, we currently
need to expand out the greek letters into words such as "gamma" and
"Delta". it would be really great if we could have www-browsers display
this as greek letters too. (but this will have to await the incorporation
of such display capabilities into browsers, for which standardization needs
to be resolved first.)

the compound names (and other strings) are stored in ecocyc with a
html-like markup, which is briefly described at:


(this page is probably quite out of date in certain places.)
for the syntax of greek letters, i choose what was called "ISOgrk3" (1.5
yrs. ago), one of several SGML-endorsed variants. the basic idea is simple:
just spell out the name of the greek letter, between an ampersand and a
semicolon. and to distinguish between small and capital letters, just
capitalize the name of the greek letter when representing a capital letter
(so the entity syntax has to be case-sensitive).

examples would be:  γ

the reason why i prefer this syntax is because it makes sense, and i have
already implemented the code in ecocyc to deal with this syntax (and i
would dislike having to change it   :-) .

in any case, it would be nice if the greek letter issue could be resolved,
and only once, so that the same syntax would be used for both mathematics
and chemistry (so it might be worth coordinating this with CML).

if people would like to reply to this posting, please copy me in directly,
as i am not subscribed to "www-math". thanx.

Markus Krummenacker