Yale's Onsager wins Chemistry Nobel Prize for theoretical work

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)



    Yale's Onsager wins Chemistry Nobel Prize j for theoretical work

    CONFERENCE. Dr. Lars Onsager answers questions at a press conference hastily called shortly after he learned of winning the 1968 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

    Award honors physical chemist

    for pre-World War II discovery

    of reciprocal relations

    basic to thermodynamics

    of irreversible processes

    "All chem. classes canceled," read the note on the blackboard inside the door of the armorylike Sterling Chemistry Laboratory on "the hill" at Yale. The reason, as everyone knew, was Prof. Lars Onsager's Nobel Prize (C&EN, Nov. 4, page 2 0 ) . T h e 64-year-old chemist had returned to New Haven after learning of the award in California from a friend who heard it on the radio.

    Wait ing for Dr. Onsager was a jubilant department , whose head, Dr. Kenneth B. Wiberg, told the press, "Nothing could have pleased us more." The awardee himself appeared poised in front of cameras and answered questions in a soft, deliberate voice with understated wit. Later interviews displayed the scientist's command of Swedish and Norwegian as well as English (he also speaks German and F r e n c h ) , and, in spite of his modest expression, showed the depth of his insight in physical and chemical theory.

    As his colleagues state, Dr. Onsager's work shows a sensitivity to basic problems, and superb power in reaching solutions. The Nobel citation specifically commends the chemist for "the discovery of the reciprocal relations bearing his name which are fundamental for the thermodynamics of irreversible processes." This discovery was published in 1931, although not fully recognized until after World W a r II . However, the cited work merely presaged more than three decades of exploration in many areas of physical chemistry: electrolytes, di

    electric liquids, isotope separation, disordered solids, superfluidity, electron distribution in metals, and the behavior of ice as a semiconductor.

    In all these areas, Dr. Onsager's research is characterized by strong intuitionthat of a man, as Peter J. W. Debye said, who "knows the truth before he has the proof"and an urge to expand context to get the broadest possible solution. Backing up this urge is an arsenal of abilities which includes great concentration power, a legendary memory, a refined knowledge of mathematics, and a running acquaintance with experiment. In the words of Dr. Philip A. Lyons, past chemistry depar tment chairman at Yale, "He combines great sophistication with the eye of an engineer. When he is finished, there's something for people to do."

    The best-known example of this approach is his prize-winning work, the Onsager reciprocal relations in thermodynamics. These enable t reatment of systems away from equilibrium (although not too far away, Dr. Onsager points out) and in a steady state. An example is the diffusion of different particles in solution as heat flows through the system.

    A general statement for this discovery is that cross coefficients in linear equations that describe the various fluxes in simultaneous irreversible processes, such as heat conduction, electrical conduction, and diffusion, are simply and predictably related to each other. Dr. Onsager says these relations were in some sense the solution to a problem of 80 years standing and that he had suspected the answer for some years.

    Leading up to this solution were years of study and then emigration to the U.S. The laureate's research pa th began with theoretical work while still an undergraduate in chemical engineering at the Norwegian Institute of Technology in Trondheim, Norway. H e picked engineering as a practical

    major after growing up with a general interest in science.

    In 1925, the young engineering graduate left Norway for nearly two years of study under the great Peter Debye at the Federal Institute of Technology, in Zurich, Switzerland. H e was able to extend the work of Debye and Hiickel on electrolytes and, later, on dielectric liquids.

    In 1928, the student crossed the ocean to Johns Hopkins University to become an associate in chemistry. At the end of the term, Dr. Charles A. Kraus, the distinguished physical chemist and later Priestley Medalist, invited him to Brown University, where he stayed until going to Yale as a Sterling and Gibbs fellow in 1933.

    The chemist stayed at Yale for his entire career, rising to J. Willard Gibbs Professor of Theoretical Chemistry in 1945. His array of major honors began in 1953 with the Rumford Medal from the American Academy of Sciences. Since then he has received the Lorentz Medal from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, the Lewis Medal from the ACS California Section, the Kirkwood Medal from the New Haven Section, the Gibbs Medal from the Chicago Section, the Richards Medal from the Northeastern Section, the ACS Debye Award, and the Belfer Award from Yeshiva University. H e holds honorary degrees from Harvard, Chicago, Rensselaer, Brown, Aachen, and his alma mater.

    Besides research, his major preoccupation, Dr. Onsager finds the best relaxation at his 80-acre farm in Sanborn ton, N .H. He celebrated his 35th wedding anniversary this year with his Austrian wife, Margarethe, three sons, and one daughter.

    Asked by the press if the supreme honor from Stockholm made him feel free to retire, the Nobel Laureate noted the prize was designed for young men who had proven their worth and should open to them a productive life.

    72 C&EN NOV. 11, 1968

  • ACS Philadelphia Section Award to Bloch Dr. B. Peter Block (right) receives the ACS Philadelphia Section Award for creative invention from Dr. Daniel Swern, section chairman. Dr. Murray Hauptschein (center), is director of organic research department at Pennsalt and was the first winner of the award. Dr. Block was cited for work on synthesis of high-molecular-weight inorganic polymers by polymerization of inorganic coordination compounds.


    A. Eric Andersen named chief en-gineer of Arco Chemical at Phila-delphia.

    Robert W. Bohny joins Quaker Oats' chemicals division as eastern district sales manager, New York City.

    Russel A. Bowman named manager of plastics and resins sales for Hooker Chemical's industrial chemicals di-vision, Niagara Falls, N.Y.

    Thurman E. Brown named manager of chlor-alkali products at PPG Indus-tries' industrial chemical division, Pittsburgh. Irvin C. Klimas named manager of organic chemicals; Robert M. Allen, of inorganic chemicals; and James F. Compton, of pigments.

    Mohamed H. Chanem named research engineer in chemical products devel-opment department of J. P. Stevens & Co. R&D division.

    Barbara Lee Christy appointed a chemist at Parke, Davis & Co., Ann Arbor.

    Mike Cieraszynski appointed opera-tions supervisor in petrochemical area

    at Ashland Oil & Refining, Catletts-burg, Ky.

    Dr. Thomas G. Coker joins inorganic research department of Wyandotte Chemicals, Wyandotte, Mich., as re-search staff member.

    Thomas D. Coughlen joins technical division of Humble Oil & Refining, Bay town, Tex., as an engineer.

    Leland S. Covery joins M. W. Kellogg Co. as sales representative.

    Dr. H. M. Dess joins National Lead Co. as assistant technical director, corporate R&D labs, Hightstown, N.J.

    K. L. Diem named manager of mer-chandising for Red Barn Chemicals, Inc., Tulsa.

    Dr. Frank A. Dolbeare joins Eli Lilly & Co., Indianapolis, as senior biochem-ist on anti-inflammatory research.

    H. Manton Dorrell named commercial and residential land manager for Friendswood Development Co/s King-wood project, Houston.

    G. R. Edwards appointed sales repre-sentative for Kellogg International.



    Crazy Colors of Cosmetics

    Dignified Colors of Drugs


    Natural Colors of Skinny-Dippers

    Whether your aim is to preserve the product life of a delicate tone of make-up, the color identity of a stomach soother, or the lovely cover of a skinny-dipper, one of our many SPECTRA-SORBS has the purity, solubility and range to do it.

    SPECTRA-SORBS protect color through a variety of spectral ranges, with Commercial and Experimental grades. These defensive Cyanamid compounds are ultraviolet absorb-ers, mainly of the benzophenone class.They can protect your finan-cial investment. Check with us.

    C r A J V A M I P



    NOV. 11, 1968 C&EN 73

  • We've got more MR Solvents to choose f rpm !

    Take your pick of the best The choice should be easy; there are now 67

    deuterated solvents 'and standards for NMR'with the EM-Reagents label...the largest selection available.

    Find the ones you need or would like to try in our complete catalog of EM analytical chemicals.

    For your free copy, just write; EM-Reagents Division, Brinkmann Instruments, Cantiague Road/ Westbury, K Y , 590. ADMS10NOF



    A symposium sponsored by the ACS Division of Fuel Chemistry, chaired by Frank C. Schora, Jr. Renewed interest in converting solid fuels to high B.t.u. gas is stimulated by several factorsthe prospect of waning natural gas supplies and the threat of nuclear fuels.

    Sixteen papers report on Coal pretreatment in fluidized bed Hydrogasification studies Slagging pressure gasifier Catalytic gasification of shale oil BCR two-stage super-pressure gasifier C02 acceptor gasification process

    and other studies

    276 pages with index cloth (1967) $9.00 ($10.50 after Dec. 31) Postpaid in U.S. and Canada; plus 20 cents elswhere.

    Set of L.C. cards free with library orders.


    Dr. Andrew Frank joins American Cyanamid, Bound Brook, as senior process engineer. Also joining the plant staff are Annmarie Sabb, Ruth-ann Jamke, Anthony Sawyer, Robert Pleban, Andrew Boccone, Leland Orr, Frank Goletz, Joanne Sullivan, David McGarrity, Arthur Scheppers, and Michael Ward.

    C. Austin Gagney named executive v.p. of McKesson Chemical Co., New York City.

    Theodore H. Glenn promoted to buyer in corporate purchasing department of Rohm and Haas, Philadelphia. Barton C. Gumpert transfers to wood products section of film department; Michael Storti named assistant marketing manager of fibers division. Karl-heinz Kronberger and Andrea F. Dukich join the Bristol lab. George H. Landers, Jr., named staff assistant to protection superintendent at Bristol.

    Roland Gohlke appointed director of research at Finnigan Instruments Corp., Palo Alto, Calif.

    Dr. Peter Grey promoted to senior research chemist at Paulsboro, N.J., lab of Mobil Research & Development Corp. Harry R. Weber promoted to supervisor of engine test lab.

    Education series staff Dr. James L. Hall and Chester Placek will staff the Washington, D . C , office of the newly formed science teaching systems division of W. A. Benjamin,

    Hall Placek Inc. Malcolm C. Johnson, Jr., v.p., heads the office and will continue to work out of New York City. This past summer Dr. Hall and Mr. Placek directed a workshop of writing-editing biologists at Woods Hole, Mass., to produce the Science of Life Series, a multivolume paperback high school curriculum. Dr. Hall was an associate editor of C&EN and Mr. Placek the C&EN assistant managing editor until last April, when they left to join W. A. Benjamin, Inc. They are now directing development of another paperback series for high schools, the Independent Study Program in Chemistry.

    74 C&EN NOV. 11, 1968


    * J


    Dr. Duane Heyman joins faculty of Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash., as assistant professor of chemistry.

    Leonard A. Weiss, who is chairman of the science department of the Cleveland Hill Schools in Cheek-towaga, N.Y., receives the 1968 Distinguished Science Teacher Award of the ACS Western New York Section. The award is made annually to a science teacher who has demonstrated extraordinary dedication and achievement in secondary school education.

    Dr. Hans Georg Zachau, director of Institute for Physiological Chemistry in Munich, receives the Richard Kuhn medal of Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker. He was cited for his work in investigation of the structure and effectiveness of transfer ribonucleic acids. The Adolf von Baeyer medal was presented to Dr. Otto Scherer, department director of Farbwerke Hoechst in Frankfurt/M-Hoechst, in recognition of his work on the chemistry of organic fluorine compounds.

    Dr. Joseph T. Zung joins University of Missouri, Rolla, faculty as professor of chemistry and senior investigator in the graduate center for cloud physics research.

    New editors

    Joan E. Zimmerman has joined the staff of Chemistry magazine, Washington, D.C., as an editorial assistant.

    Zimmerman Russell

    She was formerly a chemist in basic research in peptide chemistry at American Cyanamid's Lederle Labs at Pearl River, N.Y. She took a B.S. in chemistry at Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1959 and has published several papers in J ACS. She has one patent to her credit.

    H. Eileen Russell has also joined the staff of Chemistry as an editorial assistant. For the past six years she has taught chemistry at Roosevelt High School in Yonkers. She is a 1961 graduate of Marymount College and in 1965 received an M.S. at Fordham.

    Specializing in ORGANIC DI-VALENT 1




    Antioxidant Stabilizer Synergist for Antioxidants


    F.D.A. APPROVED for use as food additive

    and in food packaging

    See our ad in Chemical Materials Catalog and Buyer's Guide. S E N D F O R S A M P L E S A N D D A T A S H E E T

    {^yft0Me6oj-,She. 250 East 43rd Street New York 17, . Y. Phone 212 MU 3-0071

    "Quick, Henry, the screwdriver!"

    All you need is a screwdriver to adapt Conflex lab furniture to changing R & D requirements.

    S. Blickman Inc. 9211 Gregory Ave. Weehawken, N.J.

    Send free CONFLEX LAB FURNITURE catalog





    1 Whenever a new project comes along I or there's a new wrinkle in an old project I you can set up quickly. Over 800 | possible arrangements. Change doors to I drawers . . . Turn 31/2 " depth drawers

    into 71/4" depth drawers.. . Adjust full depth shelves to 1 " increments... Mix and match door and drawer sizes to your needs! Just a twist of the wrist and everything fits. Write for your free catalog today,

    NOV. 11, 1968 C&EN 75

    BLICKMAN " ' "" '"^ .Un.NLU.



    "primarily to present a strong image of what our company stands for." "to back up our recruitment program for specific job openings." "to tell prospective employees about the benefits and opportunities offered by our company." " it has always pulled well for us in the past." These are just a few of the reasons. There are many more. "Career Opportunities" is a completely separate annual issue of CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS. Feat...