Irving Langmuir

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Irving Langmuir (31 January 1881 – 16 August 1957) was an American chemist and physicist. His most noted publication was the famous 1919 article "The Arrangement of Electrons in Atoms and Molecules" in which, building on Gilbert N. Lewis's cubical atom theory and Walther Kossel's chemical bonding theory, he outlined his "concentric theory of atomic structure".[1] Langmuir became embroiled in a priority dispute with Lewis over this work; Langmuir's presentation skills were largely responsible for the popularization of the theory, although the credit for the theory itself belongs mostly to Lewis.[2] While at General Electric, from 1909–1950, Langmuir advanced several basic fields of physics and chemistry, invented the gas-filled incandescent lamp, the hydrogen welding technique, and was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in surface chemistry. He was the first industrial chemist to become a Nobel laureate. The Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research near Socorro, New Mexico was named in his honor as was the American Chemical Society journal for Surface Science, called Langmuir.



Early years

Irving Langmuir was born in Brooklyn, New York on 31 January 1881. He was the third child of four of Charles Langmuir and Sadie, née Comings. During his childhood, Langmuir's parents encouraged him to carefully observe nature and to keep a detailed record of his various observations. When Irving was eleven, it was discovered that he had poor eyesight. When this problem was corrected, details that had previously eluded him were revealed, and his interest in the complications of nature was heightened.

During his childhood, Langmuir was influenced by his older brother, Arthur Langmuir. Arthur was a research chemist who encouraged Irving to be curious about nature and how things work. Arthur helped Irving set up his first chemistry lab in the corner of his bedroom, and he was content to answer the myriad of questions that Irving would pose. Langmuir's hobbies included mountaineering, skiing, piloting his own plane, and classical music. In addition to his professional interest in the politics of atomic energy, he was concerned about wilderness conservation.

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