Theodore William Richards, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1914 (1868 - 1928) MP

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Birthplace: Germantown, PA, USA
Death: Died in Cambridge, MA, USA
Cause of death: Chronic respiratory problems and a prolonged depression.
Occupation: Physical chemist, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1914
Managed by: Yigal Burstein / יגאל בורשטיין
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About Theodore William Richards, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1914

Theodore William Richards (January 31, 1868 – April 2, 1928) was the first American scientist to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, earning the award "in recognition of his exact determinations of the atomic weights of a large number of the chemical elements."

Theodore William Richards was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, USA on January 31, 1868. His father, William T. Richards was a well-known painter of landscapes and seascapes: his mother, Anna, née Matlack, won fame for her poetical works.

During his childhood, Richards travelled to England and France and, up to the age of fourteen, he was educated by his mother. In 1883 he entered Haverford College, Pennsylvania, to graduate in science in 1885 and enter Harvard University. He received the degrees, B.A. in 1886; M.A. and Ph.D. in 1888. The following twelve months were spent in Germany where he studied under Victor Meyer, P. Jannasch, G. Kruss and W. Hempel; on his return to Harvard he was appointed Assistant in Chemistry. He successively became Instructor (1891), Assistant Professor (1894) and Professor (1901); in 1901 he also declined an offer of a full professorship in the University of Göttingen. In 1903 he became Chairman of the Department of Chemistry at Harvard and in 1912 he was appointed Erving Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory.

About half of Richards' original work has concerned atomic weights, starting in 1886 with work on oxygen and copper. He quickly developed a new technique for the determination of halide ratios and did much towards improving methods of weighing. He invented the nephelometer and demonstrated the insidious effect of occluded moisture in gases and solids. By 1912 he had redetermined, with the highest accuracy, the atomic weights of over thirty important elements and in later years he was to play his part, by his work on the determination of the atomic weight of isotopes, in the modern concept of the atom. During his initial work he was guided by J.P. Cooke.

Richards also studied atomic and molecular volume and he formulated a hypothesis of compressible atoms. He carried out a series of measurements of compressibilities of many elements and compounds in support of his theory, developing, applying and testing new methods and techniques. He introduced the use of transition temperatures of pure hydrated salts as fixed points in the standardization of thermometers, and the fundamentals of adiabatic calorimetry were developed under his guidance. His researches are recorded in some three hundred technical papers published mainly in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Journal of the American Chemical Society and the publications of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Professor Richards received honorary doctorate degrees in science from Yale (1905), Harvard (1910), Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester (1911) and Princeton (1923); in philosophy from Prague (1909) and Christiania (1911); in law from Haverton (1908), Pittsburgh (1915) and Pennsylvania (1920); in chemistry from Clark (1909); and in medicine from Berlin (1910). He was President of the American Chemical Society (1914), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1917) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1919-21). He received the Davy Medal (Royal Society), 1910; the Faraday Medal, 1911, and Willard Gibbs Medal (American Chemical Society), 1912; the Franklin Medal (Franklin Institute), 1916; and the Le Blanc and Lavoisier Medal in 1922. He was appointed Officier de la Lègion d'Honneur in 1925 and he held fellowships or memberships of academies and learned societies in the United States, the British Isles, France, Germany and Scandinavia.

Richards married Miriam Stuart Thayer, daughter of Professor Joseph H. Thayer, in 1896; they had one daughter and two sons. His favourite recreations were sketching, golf and sailing.

He died at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on April 2, 1928.

From Nobel Lectures, Chemistry 1901-1921, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1966 -------------------- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_William_Richards

Theodore William Richards (January 31, 1868 – April 2, 1928) was the first American scientist to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, earning the award "in recognition of his exact determinations of the atomic weights of a large number of the chemical elements."

Biography

Theodore Richards was born in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to William Trost Richards, a land- and seascape painter, and Anna née Matlack, a poet. Richards received most of his pre-college education from his mother. During one summer's stay at Newport, Rhode Island, Richards met Professor Josiah Parsons Cooke of Harvard, who showed the young boy Saturn's rings through a small telescope. Years later Cooke and Richards would work together in Cooke's laboratory.

Beginning in 1878, the Richards family spent two years in Europe, largely in England, where Theodore Richards' scientific interests grew stronger. After the family's return to the United States, he entered Haverford College, Pennsylvania in 1883 at the age of 14, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in 1885. He then enrolled at Harvard University and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1886, as further preparation for graduate studies.

Richards continued on at Harvard, obtaining a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1888 for a determination of the atomic weight of oxygen relative to hydrogen. His doctoral advisor was Josiah Parsons Cooke. Following a year of post-doctoral work in Germany, where he studied under Victor Meyer and others, Richards returned to Harvard as an assistant in chemistry, then instructor, assistant professor, and finally full professor in 1901. In 1903 he became chairman of the Department of Chemistry at Harvard, and in 1912 he was appointed Erving Professor of Chemistry and Director of the new Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory.

In 1896, Richards married Miriam Stuart Thayer. The couple had one daughter, Grace Thayer (who married James Bryant Conant), and two sons, Greenough Thayer and William Theodore. Both sons died by suicide.

Richards' maintained interests in both art and music. Among his recreations were sketching, golf, and sailing. He died at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on April 2, 1928, at the age of 60. According to one of his descendants, Richards suffered from "chronic respiratory problems and a prolonged depression."

Scientific research

About half of Richards's scientific research concerned atomic weights, starting in 1886 with his graduate studies. On returning to Harvard in 1889, this was his first line of research, continuing up to his death. According to Forbes, by 1932 the atomic weights of 55 elements had been studied by Richards and his students. Among the potential sources of error Richards uncovered in such determinations was the tendency of certain salts to occlude gases or foreign solutes on precipitation. As an example of the care Richards used in his work, Emsley reports that he carried out 15,000 recrystallization of thulium bromate in order to obtain the pure element thulium for an atomic weight measurement.

Richards was the first to show, by chemical analysis, that an element could have different atomic weights. He was asked to analyze samples of naturally-occurring lead and lead produced by radioactive decay. His measurements showed that the two samples had different atomic weights, supporting the concepts of isotopes.

Although Richards's chemical determinations of atomic weights were highly significant for their time, they have largely been superseded. Modern scientists use electronic instrumentation, such as mass spectrometers, to determine both the masses and the abundances of an element's isotopes. From this information, an average atomic mass can be calculated, and compared to the values measured by Richards. The modern methods are faster and more sensitive than those on which Richards had to rely, but not necessarily less expensive.

Other scientific work of Theodore Richards included investigations of the compressibilities of atoms, heats of solution and neutralization, and the electrochemistry of amalgams. His investigation of electrochemical potentials at low temperatures was among the work that led, in the hands of others, to the Nernst heat theorem and the third law of thermodynamics, although not without heated debate between Nernst and Richards.

Richards also is credited with the invention of the adiabatic calorimeter as well as the nephelometer, which was devised for his work on the atomic weight of strontium.

Legacy and honors

Graph of periodic properties by Richards

Lowell Lectures (1908)

Davy Medal (1910)

Faraday Medal (1911)

Willard Gibbs Medal (1912)

President of the American Chemical Society (1914)

Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1914)

Franklin Medal (1916)

President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1917)

President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences President (1919 – 1921)

Lavoisier Medal (1922)

Le Blanc Medal (1922)

Theodore Richards Medal (1932, awarded posthumously)

Selected writings

Richards, Theodore W. (1915). "Concerning the Compressibilities of the Elements, and Their Relations to Other Properties". Journal of the American Chemical Society (American Chemical Society) 37 (7): 1643–1656. doi:10.1021/ja02172a001. http://books.google.com/?id=auQBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1668&dq=theodore+richards.

Richards, Theodore W.; Forbes, George Shannon (1906). "Energy Changes Involved in the Dilution of Zinc and Cadmium Amalgams". Carnegie Institution Report (Carnegie Institution of Washington): 1–68. http://books.google.com/?id=kAgNAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA63&dq=theodore+richards+atomic.

Richards, Theodore W. (1913). The Scientific Work of Morris Loeb. Harvard University Press. http://books.google.com/?id=xstAAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=theodore+richards.

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Theodore William Richards, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1914's Timeline

1868
January 31, 1868
Germantown, PA, USA
1898
1898
Age 29
1928
April 2, 1928
Age 60
Cambridge, MA, USA
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