Gilbert N. Lewis

          Gilbert N. Lewis was born in 1875 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. He was an American physical chemist known for the discovery of the covalent bond and his concept of electron pairs; his Lewis dot structures and other contributions to valence bond theory have shaped modern theories of chemical bonding. Lewis successfully contributed to thermodynamics, photochemistry, and isotope separation, and is also known for his concept of acids and bases.
          After receiving his PhD in chemistry from Harvard University and studying abroad in Germany and the Philippines, Lewis moved to California to teach chemistry at the University of California, 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, he incorporated thermodynamic principles into the chemistry curriculum and reformed chemical thermodynamics in a mathematically rigorous manner accessible to ordinary chemists. He began measuring the free energy values related to several chemical processes, both organic and inorganic.

          In 1916, he also proposed his theory of bonding and added information about electrons in the periodic table of the elements. In 1933, he started his research on isotope separation. Lewis worked with hydrogen and managed to purify a sample of heavy water. He then came up with his theory of acids and bases, and did work in photochemistry during the last years of his life. In 1926, Lewis coined the term "photon" for the smallest unit of radiant energy. He was a brother in Alpha Chi Sigma, the professional chemistry fraternity.

          Though he was nominated 41 times, G. N. Lewis never won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. On March 23, 1946, Lewis was found dead in his Berkeley laboratory where he had been working with hydrogen cyanide; many postulated that the cause of his death was suicide. After Lewis' death, his children followed their father's career in chemistry.


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