Saturday, February 23, 2013

Alfred Werner (1866-1919)

Werner was born on December 12, 1866, in Mülhouse, a small community in the French province of Alsace. His study of chemistry began in Karlsruhe (Germany) and continued in Zurich (Switzerland), where in his doctoral thesis in 1890, he explained the difference in properties of certain nitrogen containing organic substances on the basis of isomerism. He extended vant Hoff’s theory of tetrahedral carbon atom and modified it for nitrogen. Werner showed optical and electrical differences between complex compounds based on physical measurements. In fact, Werner was the first to discover optical activity in certain coordination compounds.
He, at the age of 29 years became a full professor at Technische Hochschule in Zurich in 1895. Alfred Werner was a chemist and educationist. His accomplishments included the development of the theory of coordination compounds. This theory, in which Werner proposed revolutionary ideas about how atoms and molecules are linked together, was formulated in a span of only three years, from 1890 to 1893. The remainder of his career was spent gathering the experimental support required to validate his new ideas. Werner became the first Swiss chemist to win the Nobel Prize in 1913 for his work on the linkage of atoms and the coordination theory.