11 December – 1880-1890: Richards, Le Chatelier & Arrhenius
The first chemist featured in day 11 of the chemistry advent timeline is Ellen Swallow Richards. Richards was the first woman to obtain a degree in chemistry in 1870. She subsequently entered MIT as a student, but in a sign of the times was admitted with “it being understood that her admission did not establish a precedent for the general admission of females”. She later carried out important work in water sanitation, and was a strong advocate for women’s education, writing a number of books on science in the home. There’s more on her work here.
Le Chatelier is a familiar name to chemistry students; his eponymous principle provides a means of predicting the results when the conditions of chemical equilibria are changed. If you’ve forgotten the specifics from school chemistry lessons, you can brush up with this graphic.
Finally, Svante Arrhenius completes our look at 1880-1890. Arrhenius clarified our understanding of solution chemistry, acids and bases, and the activation energy of reactions. He also predicted the human-caused carbon dioxide emissions could cause global warming. Arrhenius eventually won a Nobel Prize for his work; he was also the principal figure who prevented Dmitri Mendeleev being awarded the prize for his work on the development of the periodic table.
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