chemistry

Alexandre-Émile Béguyer de Chancourtois and the Order of the Chemical Elements

Alexandre-Émile Béguyer de Chancourtois and the Order of the Chemical Elements

On January 20, 1820, French geologist and mineralogist  Alexandre-Émile Béguyer de Chancourtois was born. De Chancourtois was the first to arrange the chemical elements in order of atomic weights in 1862. De Chancourtois only published his paper, but did not publish his actual graph with the irregular arrangement. Although his publication was significant, it was ignored by chemists as it was written in terms of geology. It was Dmitri Mendeleev’s table published in 1869…
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Paul Müller and the Doubtful Qualities of DDT

Paul Müller and the Doubtful Qualities of DDT

On January 12, 1899, Swiss chemist and Nobel Laureate Paul Hermann Müller was born. Müller received the 1948 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his 1939 discovery of insecticidal qualities and use of DDT in the control of vector diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. “We have discovered many preventives against tropical diseases, and often against the onslaught of insects of all kinds, from lice to mosquitoes and back again. The excellent…
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Robert Boyle – The Sceptical Chemist

Robert Boyle – The Sceptical Chemist

On December 31, 1691, Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist and inventor Robert Boyle passed away. Boyle is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemistry, and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method. He is best known for Boyle’s law, which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant…
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Willard Frank Libby and the Radiocarbon Dating

Willard Frank Libby and the Radiocarbon Dating

On December 17, 1908, American physical chemist Willard Frank Libby was born. Libby is best known for his role in the 1949 development of radiocarbon dating, a process which revolutionized archaeology and palaeontology. For his contributions to the team that developed this process, Libby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960. Early Years Willard Frank Libby was born among two siblings in Grand Valley, Colorado, the son of farmers Ora…
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Lars Onsager and Irreversible Chemical Processes

Lars Onsager and Irreversible Chemical Processes

On November 27, 1903, Norwegian-born American physical chemist and theoretical physicist Lars Onsager was born. The development of a general theory of irreversible chemical processes gained him the 1968 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. These Onsager reciprocal relations have importance in a wide range of applications. Education Lars Onsager was born in Kristiania (today’s Oslo), Norway, to Erling Onsager, a Barrister of the Supreme Court of Norway, and Ingrid, née Kirkeby. After completing…
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Charles-Adolphe Wurtz and the Atomic Theory

Charles-Adolphe Wurtz and the Atomic Theory

On November 26, 1817, Alsatian French chemist and educator Charles-Adolphe Wurtz was born. Wurtz is best remembered for his decades-long advocacy for the atomic theory and for ideas about the structures of chemical compounds, against the skeptical opinions of chemists such as Marcellin Berthelot and Etienne Henri Sainte-Claire Deville. He is well known by organic chemists for the Wurtz reaction, to form carbon-carbon bonds by reacting alkyl halides with sodium, and for…
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Daniel Rutherford and the isolation of Nitrogen

Daniel Rutherford and the isolation of Nitrogen

On November 3, 1749, Scottish physician, chemist and botanist Daniel Rutherford was born. Rutherford was the uncle of famous novelist Sir Walter Scott. But originally, he is most famous for the isolation of nitrogen in 1772. Daniel Rutherford – Background The second son of Professor John Rutherford and his second wife Anne Mackay, Daniel Rutherford was born in Edinburgh on 3 November 1749. Educated at first at home, he was sent, when…
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Nathaniel Wyeth and the Invention of the PET Bottle

Nathaniel Wyeth and the Invention of the PET Bottle

On October 24, 1911, American mechanical engineer and inventor Nathaniel C. Wyeth was born. Wyeth is best known for creating polyethylene terephthalate that could withstand the pressure of carbonated liquids. Made of recyclable PET plastic, lighter than glass and virtually unbreakable, Wyeth’s invention is used widely today for both carbonated and non-carbonated drinks. Nathaniel Wyeth – Background Information Nathaniel C. Wyeth was born into America’s foremost family of artists: both of his sisters…
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Georg Ernst Stahl and the Phlogiston Theory

Georg Ernst Stahl and the Phlogiston Theory

On October 22, 1659, German chemist, physician and philosopher Georg Ernst Stahl was born. Stahl developed the phlogiston theory of combustion and of such related biological processes as respiration, fermentation, and decay. Combustible objects, he said, were rich in phlogiston, and during combustion is lost. The remaining ash, now having no phlogiston, could no longer burn. Until the late 18th century his works on phlogiston were accepted as an explanation for chemical…
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Christian Friedrich Schönbein and the Ozone

Christian Friedrich Schönbein and the Ozone

On October 18, 1799, German-Swiss chemist Christian Friedrich Schönbein was born. Schönbein is best known for inventing the fuel cell (1838) and his discoveries of guncotton (nitrocellulose) and ozone. Christian Friedrich Schönbein – Early Years Christian Friedrich Schönbein came from a pietistic family, his father was a dyer, postman and bookkeeper. In 1812, after completing elementary school, he was apprenticed at a pharmaceutical factory in Böblingen and was adviced to begin studying at the…
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