Gilbert N. Lewis

Merle Randall

Gilbert Newton Lewis ForMemRS (October 23 or October 25, 1875 – March 23, 1946) was an American physical chemist and a dean of the College of Chemistry at University of California, Berkeley. Lewis was best known for his discovery of the covalent bond and his concept of electron pairs; his Lewis dot structures and other contributions to valence bond theory have shaped modern theories of chemical bonding. Lewis successfully contributed to chemical thermodynamicsphotochemistry, and isotope separation, and is also known for his concept of acids and bases.[8] Lewis also researched on relativity and quantum physics, and in 1926 he coined the term “photon” for the smallest unit of radiant energy.

G. N. Lewis was born in 1875 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. After receiving his PhD in chemistry from Harvard University and studying abroad in Germany and the Philippines, Lewis moved to California in 1912 to teach chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, where he became the Dean of the College of Chemistry and spent the rest of his life.  As a professor, he incorporated thermodynamic principles into the chemistry curriculum and reformed chemical thermodynamics in a mathematically rigorous manner accessible to ordinary chemists. He began measuring the free energy values related to several chemical processes, both organic and inorganic. In 1916, he also proposed his theory of bonding and added information about electrons in the periodic table of the chemical elements. In 1933, he started his research on isotope separation. Lewis worked with hydrogen and managed to purify a sample of heavy water. He then came up with his theory of acids and bases, and did work in photochemistry during the last years of his life.

Though he was nominated 41 times, G. N. Lewis never won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, resulting in a major Nobel Prize controversy.

 On the other hand, Lewis mentored and influenced numerous Nobel laureates at Berkeley including Harold Urey (1934 Nobel Prize), William F. Giauque (1949 Nobel Prize), Glenn T. Seaborg (1951 Nobel Prize), Willard Libby (1960 Nobel Prize), Melvin Calvin (1961 Nobel Prize) and so on, turning Berkeley into one of the world’s most prestigious centers for chemistry.

On March 23, 1946, Lewis was found dead in his Berkeley laboratory where he had been working with hydrogen cyanide; many postulated that the cause of his death was suicide. After Lewis’ death, his children followed their father’s career in chemistry, and the Lewis Hall on the Berkeley campus is named after him.

Gilbert N. Lewis was last modified: April 18th, 2023 by Jovan Stosic

Fritz Haber

Fritz Haber (German pronunciation: [ˈfʁɪt͡s ˈhaːbɐ] (listen); 9 December 1868 – 29 January 1934) was a German chemist who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his invention of the Haber–Bosch process, a method used in industry to synthesize ammonia from nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas. This invention is important for the large-scale synthesis of fertilisers and explosives. It is estimated that one-third of annual global food production uses ammonia from the Haber–Bosch process, and that this supports nearly half of the world’s population. Haber, along with Max Born, proposed the Born–Haber cycle as a method for evaluating the lattice energy of an ionic solid.

Haber, a known German nationalist, is also considered the “father of chemical warfare” for his years of pioneering work developing and weaponising chlorine and other poisonous gases during World War I. He first proposed the use of the heavier-than-air chlorine gas as a weapon to break the trench deadlock during the Second Battle of Ypres. His work was later used, without his direct involvement, to develop Zyklon B, used for the extermination of more than 1 million Jews in gas chambers in the greater context of the Holocaust.

After the Nazi rise to power in 1933, Haber was forced to resign from his positions because he was Jewish. Already in poor health, he spent time in various countries, before Chaim Weizmann invited him to become the director of the Sieff Research Institute (now the Weizmann Institute) in RehovotMandatory Palestine. He accepted the offer, but died of heart failure mid-journey in a Basel hotel on 29 January 1934, aged 65.

Haber has been called one of the most important scientists, if not the most important, in human history and possibly the greatest industrial chemist who ever lived.

Fritz Haber was last modified: April 18th, 2023 by Jovan Stosic