American chemist whose research on the atomic weights of approximately
60 elements indicated the existence of isotopes and earned him the 1914
Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Richards greatly improved the technique of gravimetric atomic weight
determinations, introducing quartz apparatus, the bottling device, and
the nephelometer (an instrument for measuring turbidity). Although the
atomic weight values of Jean Servais Stas had been regarded as standard,
about 1903 physicochemical measurements showed that some were not accurate.
Richards and his students revised these figures, lowering, for instance,
Stas's value for silver from 107.93 to 107.88. Richards' investigations
of the atomic weight of lead from different sources helped to confirm
the existence of isotopes. His later researches were concerned mainly
with the physical properties of the solid elements and included much
original work on atomic volumes and compressibilities.
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