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Gilbert Newton Lewis

The conclusion of a manuscript located at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, laid the words:
“I have attempted to give you a glimpse…of what there may be of soul in chemistry. But it may have been in vain. Perchance the chemist is already damned and the guardian the blackest. But if the chemist has lost his soul, he will not have lost his courage and as he descends into the inferno, sees the rows of glowing furnaces and sniffs the homey fumes of brimstone, he will call out-: ‘Asmodeus, hand me a test-tube…;;
Gilbert Newton Lewis was by far one of the greatest and most powerful of American chemists. These words come from a man who was the most well-known figure in a great revolution that brought America to the front in chemistry. Lewis influenced this revolution by both his teaching and his research. Throughout the course of the nineteenth century, many nations in Europe dominated science, but thefirst half of the twentieth century brought a tidal wave of scientific research that thrust America to the forefront.
Lewis taught at Harvard and MIT before becoming a Professor and Dean at the University of California at Berkeley, whose then languishing College of Chemistry he single-handedly transformed into one of the nation’s best. Lewis became the mentor to 290 Ph.D. recipients and 20 Nobel Prize winners. For example, he directed the experiments that resulted in the discovery of elements 93-106.
In his own work, Lewis combined strict discipline in collecting and organizing data with innovative interpretation of the results. In the early 1930s, he became thefirst scientist to produce “heavy water,” with double-weight hydrogen atoms, which was essential to early experiments in atomic energy. He also worked with Ernest Lawrence in the invention of the cyclotron and in early atom-smashing experiments. From the late 1930s to his death in 1946, Lewis focused on photochemistry. In fact, it was he who coined the term “…

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