Gerhard Herzberg Physical Chemist Pioneer In Molecular Spectroscopy

Gerhard Herzberg – pioneer in molecular spectroscopy

Category : Personalities
Published by : Data Research Analyst,

Biography & contributions

Gerhard Herzberg was a German-Canadian pioneering physicist and physical chemist born on December 25, 1904 – died on March 03, 1999. Herzberg was pioneer in molecular spectroscopy, knowledge of electronic structure and geometry of molecules.

Herzberg was the receiver of many notable awards and medals in his career like Henry Marshall Tory Medal in the year of 1953, Willard Gibbs Award in the year of 1969, Nobel Prize in the year of 1971.

Herzberg's main work concerned atomic and molecular spectroscopy. He is well known for using these techniques that determine the structures of diatomic and polyatomic molecules, including free radicals which are difficult to investigate in any other way, and for the chemical analysis of astronomical objects.

Other important contributions of Herzberg are in 1929 accurately explained chemical bonding at the electron level. In 1941 he observed the spectra of themethylidyne ion CH+ in interstellar clouds, proving that CH+ exists in space. In 1948 Herzberg proved that the hydrogen molecule exists in planetary atmospheres. In 1956 he obtained the spectra of the methyl radical CH3. In 1959 he obtained the spectra of the methylene radical CH2.

Diatomic Molecule

Diatomic molecules are molecules composed of only two atoms, of either the same or different chemical elements. Diatomic elements played an important role in the elucidation of the concepts of element, atom. If a diatomic molecule consists of two atoms of the same element, such as hydrogen (H2) or oxygen (O2), then it is said to be homonuclear. Hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine, and chlorine are the only gases that form stable homonuclear diatomic molecules at standard temperature and pressure (STP). Carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, and hydrogen chloride are the examples for heteronuclear diatomic molecules.

Polyatomic Ion

Polyatomic ion is a charged chemical ion composed of two or more atoms covalently bonded or of a metal complex that can be considered to be acting as a single unit.


Hydroxide ion - OH

Polyatomic ions are often useful in the context of acid-base chemistry or in the formation of salts.

Free Radical

Free radical is an atom, molecule, or ion that has unpaired valence electrons or an open electron shell. Free radicals may be created in a number of ways, including synthesis with very dilute or rarefied reagents, reactions at very low temperatures, or breakup of larger molecules. Free radicals play an important role in combustion, atmospheric chemistry, polymerization, plasma chemistry, biochemistry, and many other chemical processes. In living organisms, the free radicals superoxide and nitric oxide and their reaction products regulate vascular tone and blood pressure.

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