Svante August Arrhenius
Svante Arrhenius was first to speculate that changes in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could alter surface temperatures through the greenhouse effect.
Svante August Arrhenius (1859–1927), a founding father of physical chemistry, was trained in both chemistry and physics. He began at the University of Uppsala, but then petitioned to work at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm instead, because he found the chemistry professors at the university rigid and uninspiring. His doctoral dissertation, presented in 1883, described his experimental work on the electrical conductivity of dilute solutions; it also contained a speculative section that set out an early form of his theory that molecules of acids, bases, and salts dissociate into ions when these substances are dissolved in water—in contrast to the notion of Michael Faraday and others that ions are produced only when the electrical current begins to flow. According to Arrhenius, acids were substances that contained hydrogen and yielded hydrogen ions in aqueous solution; bases contained the OH group and yielded hydroxide ions in aqueous solution.
Although he was offered opportunities to move to other European universities, and he delivered important lecture series at universities in the United States, Arrhenius always returned to Stockholm. In 1903 he received the Nobel Prize in chemistry, and in 1905 he was made director of the newly created Nobel Institute for Physical Chemistry.
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Excerpted with permission, Chemical Heritage Foundation