October 23 – Hats Off to Gilbert N. Lewis!

Posted October 23, 2016

Today we celebrate an American chemist who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 41 times !! – but who never won.

Obviously, with that many nominations, he added a lot to the science of chemistry!

Gilbert Lewis lived to be 70 years old – a fairly long life, to be sure – and died in his University of California, Berkeley, lab. Apparently, although the coroner ruled that he died from coronary artery disease, he was surrounded by deadly fumes from a broken line containing liquid hydrogen cyanide – and some wondered if he had actually committed suicide!

Lewis's two sons both became chemistry professors like their dad.

Here are some of Lewis's many accomplishments:

  • Figured out the electron-pair theory of acid-base reactions
  • Determined the free energies of many different substances, helping to formalize the science of chemical thermodynamics
  • Invented the concept of the covalent bond
  • Helped to create the valence theory

  • Created a system of representing valence electrons

  • Coined the term photon for the smallest “bit” of light or other radiant energy
  • First to discover O4 molecules
  • First to produce a pure sample of heavy water 
  • First to study lifeforms in heavy water
  • Contributed to the understanding of physics, including writing papers on relativity and studying the properties of the nuclei of atoms

Here are some resources to help you understand acids and bases, thermodynamics, covalent bonds and valence theory, photons, and heavy water.

And here is another resource on valence theory...

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