Gilbert Newton Lewis: biography and contributions of this American physicochemist

Gilbert Newton Lewis, an American national, was one of the most influential physical chemists of the 20th century. This scientist spent most of his career as a professor and researcher at the University of California (Berkeley), having to take a break for a few years when he was recruited to assist the United States Army in World War I. .

Among the many contributions to science are the Lewis structure or point diagrams, the concept of covalent bonding, forging the term photon, its definition of acid and base.

In this biography of Gilbert Newton Lewis we will review the life of this scientist, and much of his contributions to the field of physics and chemistry will be recognized.

    Brief biography of Gilbert Newton Lewis

    Gilbert Newton Lewis was born on October 23, 1875 in the American town of Weymouth (Massachusetts). His parents were Mary Burr White Lewis and Frank Wesley Lewis. .

    Academic training

    In 1884, Newton Lewis and his family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. at just 13, he was admitted to high school at the University of Nebraska, thanks to his good academic results.

    After graduating from high school, Lewis investigated the possibility of studying economics; however, he eventually studied physics and chemistry, being admitted in 1893 to the prestigious Harvard University, where he graduated three years later. After graduating, he worked as a teacher at a private college called Phillps Academy, located in Andover, Massachusetts.

    In 1898 Lewis returned to Harvard University to study for a graduate degree which would enable him to earn a master’s degree. He completed his postgraduate studies by presenting a thesis entitled “The electron and a molecule”. The following year, he obtained his doctorate from the same university with his thesis entitled Some electrochemical and thermochemical reactions of zinc and cadmium amalgams.

      Harvard graduate: training in Germany

      After earning his doctorate from Harvard University, Lewis secured a place at the same university for a year. One year later, succeeded in obtaining a scholarship which allowed him to travel to Europe to continue his apprenticeship at the hands of important European physicists and chemists, starting with his trip to Germany in 1889 to learn from Wilhelm Ostwald Leipzig and also at the University of Göttingen (Germany).

      After his trip to Europe, Lewis was offered a job with the Philippine government, where he worked for a time. During this stage, he devoted part of his work to research on the decomposition of silver oxide, even publishing an article on this research, which is entitled “Hydration in solution” (Hydration in solution).

        Return to the United States

        In 1899 Lewis was called to the chair of chemistry at Harvard University, where he held that post until 1906.

        The year after leaving his post as professor and researcher at Harvard University, Lewis was offered the opportunity to work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a post he accepted and held until 1912., year in which he married Mary Hinckley Sheldon, with whom he had 3 children: Margery, Edward and Richard Lewis.

        During this period Lewis published a number of important papers in his field: Schematics of a New System of Thermodynamic Chemistry and Chemical Free Energy, which became the core of a series of subsequent papers. experimental determinations of free energies.

        In 1908, Lewis published his first research on the theory of relativity in parallel with Albert Einstein. according to sources, where he presents the hypothesis about the discovered link between energy and mass, although in a different direction than that used by Einstein in his research.

        Moreover, during this period he was admitted into the small group of chemists who came to push the field of research in physics and chemistry dazzlingly in the United States. This period was marked by intense scientific work, both theoretical and experimental, which continued throughout his career. The work of physicochemists of that time made it possible to lay the foundations for many fields of research which are now widely recognized. by chemists and physicists around the world.

          Career at the University of California

          After completing his professional career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lewis was hired to work as a professor of chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley.

          After working as a professor at this institution for some time, Lewis he becomes dean of the chemistry faculty and also of the chemistry department of the same university, an institution that was booming at the time, and part of the credit goes to Lewis for his hard work, as well as the leadership of the institution’s president, Benjamin Ide Wheeler, making the University of California the one of the most distinguished universities in the United States.

          In addition, at the University of California, Lewis benefited from innovative facilities to perform his research duties, which he took full advantage of. The first thing he did when he was appointed dean was a rejuvenation of the department, recruiting young researchers who, under Lewis’s leadership, carried out fruitful research work together. Another innovation made by Lewis was to remove hierarchical positions within his department, so that they were all professors of the same rank, as well as researchers.

          Because there was no hierarchy, Lewis allowed free speech within the faculty to give rise to a diversity of opinions., which takes place in a debate where each member, including the students, could argue their conclusions on any topic that arises.

          It is said that at university they became like the classical Athenians, so they constantly debated and shared the ideas that came to their mind in relation to the issues being addressed, under the motto that the whole department as a whole was more as the sum of its members individually.

            In the United States Army during World War I.

            In 1914, despite the outbreak of World War I, Lewis continued his work, and in 1917, was recruited to assist the United States Army, reaching the command post of the Chemical Warfare Service Defense Division, doing a tremendous job, thanks to which the army of his country was able to significantly reduce the number of casualties compared to the years before its incorporation due to the use of gas by the armies on the enemy side.

            Lewis has helped the United States Army achieve great efficiency in protecting its soldiers from the gas with which countries on the enemy side have fought.

            Continuation of research in Physics and Chemistry

            After the end of the war, Lewis he was honored with the highest distinctions awarded to his country’s army. Back in California, he began to work as an assistant to Merle Randall in his research on the treatise of thermodynamics.

            In 1923, the two they published their great work, titled Thermodynamics and Energy Free of Chemicals, which represents all of his research since 1899.

            The last years and death

            In 1926 he was credited with coining the term “photon” to refer to the smallest unit of radiant energy, and seven years later. he was the first chemist to produce a pure sample of deuterium oxide (heavy water). He was also successful in examining several of the properties of neutron accelerating nucleons in Ernest Lawrence’s cyclotron.

            In 1946 Lewis died of heart failure while doing research in his laboratory at the University of California

              Gilbert Newton Lewis’ most important contributions to science

              Throughout his long career as a researcher, Lewis made important discoveries through which he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, although he never won it. Among his many contributions to science, we highlight the following.

              1. Lewis structure or point diagrams

              This is perhaps Gilbert Newton Lewis’s most important contribution to science, developed using various methods to represent the structure of a molecule.

              This scientist devised the hypothesis that atoms were able to hold together by comparing pairs of electrons. On this basis, he developed the symbolism of structures.

              The theory of bond, which developed on the basis of that of Lewis, helped to group together in a single concept all classes of chemical bonds.

              2. Covalent bond

              The covalent bond conceptualized by Lewin, is the constitution of two atoms joined together so that a stable octet is formed, while sharing the electrons of the last level, except for hydrogen, which is able to achieve stability by having two electrons.

              3. Photography

              As discussed above, Lewin invented the concept of photon to name the smallest unit of light energy, which is capable of transmitting all possible forms of electromagnetic radiation, such as x-rays, gamma rays, infrared rays, microwaves, ultraviolet rays, etc.

              Bibliographical references

              • Harris, HH (1998). A biography of distinguished scientist Gilbert Newton Lewis (by Edward S. Lewis). The Edward Mellen Press: Lewiston, p.114.
              • Harris, HH (November 1999). A biography of distinguished scientist Gilbert Newton Lewis. The Edward Mellen Press, 76 (11), p. 1478-1488.
              • Hildebrand, JH (1958). Gilbert Newton Lewis. National Academy of Sciences, p. 208-235.
              • Jensen, WB (nd). Gilbert N. Lewis: American chemist. British.
              • Institute for the History of Science (nd). Gilbert Newton Lewis. Institute for the History of Science.

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