Gilbert Newton Lewis

The man who was the most distinguished leader is Gilbert Newton Lewis. He is best known for his theory on the natures of acids and bases and his explanation of chemical bonding. He has successfully contributed to thermodynamics, photochemistry, and isotope separation. Throughout the nineteenth century, Lewis influenced many of his colleagues with his research.

Lewis was born on October 23, 1875, in Weymouth, Massachusetts. He was educated at home by his parents. He learned how to read at a very young age and was well educated until age thirteen when he started to enter the University of Nebraska. In 1894, Lewis transferred from the University of Nebraska to Harvard University, where he received a BS degree in Chemistry. Three years later, he continued to study at Harvard to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry. After receiving his Ph.D. at the age of twenty-four, he worked for Wilhelm Ostwald and Walter Nernst in Germany. He also spent years in the Philippines as a Superintendent of the Bureau of Weights. He spent seven years working with systematic determination of the electrode potentials of the elements. In 1912, Lewis moved to California to teach chemistry at the University of Berkeley. Several years later, he became the Dean of the college of Chemistry at Berkeley, where he spent the rest of his life.

As a professor, one of the things he did was to redesign the chemistry curriculum to incorporate thermodynamic principles, which can also be called free energy. Lewis began measuring the free energy values related to several chemical processes, both organic and inorganic. He also revealed many problems with free energy in chemistry.

In 1916, he also proposed his theory of bonding and added information about electrons in the Periodic Table of Elements. His theory was that there are eight electrons in the outer orbit of an atom. He used dots to represent electrons. In 1933, he started his research on isotope separation. Isotopes are different in weight from single elements. Lewis worked with isotope of hydrogen and managed to prepare pure water containing isotope hydrogen. Lewis also was successful with acid and base chemical bonding theory. Lewis had defined an acid as any electron-pair recipient and a base as electron-pair donor. This covered all the chemical reaction including hydrogen ion transfers.

During the last years of his life he also did some photochemistry, which is the interaction of light energy with chemical compounds to create a reaction. On March 23, 1946, he died from a heart attack at his Berkeley laboratory. After Lewis' death, his children followed their father's career in chemistry.

Lewis was a very young and brilliant chemist. He carried out significant work on the field of chemistry. He believed that chemistry should be taught with the important emphasis on fundamental principles rather than on its technical applications.


Diana Le


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