This Week in Chemistry

Jessica Clifton

by Jessica Clifton

20th November 2019

This week in history seems to have given us a plethora of noted scientists. Born between 17th and 24th November and spanning the last several hundred years, we have several Nobel Prize winners, ground-breaking chemists, and discoverers of revolutionary substances and chemical reactions.

17th November 1645 – Nicolas Lémery was born

Nicolas Lémery was a French chemist who focused his research on acid-base chemistry and was amongst the first to theorise on this subject. He also wrote a dictionary of pharmaceuticals and the chemistry textbook ‘Cours de Chymie’, which was used as a standard for 100 years.


18th November 1906 – George Wald was born

George Wald was an American scientist who won a share of the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries in vision. Wald discovered that vitamin A is a component of the retina and is essential in retinal function. He also identified visual pigments and discovered the primary molecular reaction to light in the eye.

19th November 1887 – James Sumner was born

James Sumner was an American chemist and the second person on our list to have won a share of a Nobel Prize. Sumner shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1946 with John Howard Northrop and Wendell Tanley, winning for their crystallisation of enzymes and proof that enzymes are proteins.

21st November 1824 – Hieronymus Richter was born

Hieronymus Richter was a German chemist who co-discovered of indium (In) with fellow chemist Ferdinand Reich, a colour-blind scientist who needed a partner to examine colours produced in chemical reactions. Indium is a rare element, a malleable silver metal used to make indium tin oxide, which is used in LCD touch screens and flat screen TVs, amongst other things.

22nd November 1904 – Louis Néel was born

Louis Néel is the third person on this list to have been awarded the Nobel Prize. A French physicist, Néel shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1970 with the Swedish astrophysicist Hannes Alfvén for their pioneering studies of the magnetic properties of solids. His explanation of the weak magnetism of certain rocks also contributed greatly to the study of the history of earth’s magnetic field.

23rd November 1887 – Henry Moseley was born

Henry Moseley was a noted English physicist who developed a law (Moseley’s law) that used X-ray spectrometry to define atomic numbers. Early in his career, he measured and plotted the x-ray frequencies for around 40 elements of the periodic table. His work meant that every element on the table could be associated with a physical property.

The periodic table of chemical elements


24th November 1925 – Simon van der Meer was born

The last scientist on our list and another Nobel Prize winner, Dutch particulate accelerator physicist Simon van der Meer was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1984 with Carlo Rubbia for their contributions to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Their work led to the discovery of the W and Z particles – two fundamental components of all matter.


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