Irving Langmuir, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1932
Birth in 1881 of Irving Langmuir, renowned chemist and Nobel laureate who was namesake for an American Chemical Society journal.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1932 was awarded to Irving Langmuir “for his discoveries and investigations in surface chemistry”.
Langmuir’s studies embraced chemistry, physics, and engineering and were largely the outgrowth of studies of vacuum phenomena. In seeking the atomic and molecular mechanisms of these he investigated the properties of adsorbed films and the nature of electric discharges in high vacuum and in certain gases at low pressures. His work on filaments in gases led directly to the invention of the gasfilled incandescent lamp and to the discovery of atomic hydrogen. He later used the latter in the development of the atomic hydrogen welding process.
He was the first to observe the very stable adsorbed monatomic films on tungsten and platinum filaments, and was able, after experiments with oil films on water, to formulate a general theory of adsorbed films. He also studied the catalytic properties of such films. Langmuir’s work on space charge effects and related phenomena led to many important technical developments which have had a profound effect on later technology.
In chemistry, his interest in reaction mechanism caused him to study structure and valence, and he contributed to the development of the Lewis theory of shared electrons.
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Excerpted with permission, www.nobelprize.org