German chemist who almost single-handedly organized physical chemistry
into a nearly independent branch of chemistry. He won the Nobel Prize
for Chemistry in 1909 for his work on catalysis, chemical equilibrium,
and reaction velocities.
He began his laboratory researches with studies on the dynamics of
reactions in solution and then turned to electrochemistry. In 1894 he
gave the first modern definition of a catalyst and turned his attention
to catalytic reactions. His process for the conversion of ammonia to
nitric acid, patented in 1902, became of great industrial importance.
Following his resignation from Leipzig, he wrote on the philosophy of
science and, in the book Grosse Manner (1909; "Great Men"),
he investigated the psychological causes of scientific productivity.
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