Wilhelm Ostwald (1853-1932)


German chemist, was born in Riga, in September 2nd 1853, and died in Grossbothem, Germany, in April 4th 1932.

Graduated at the University of Dorpat and in 1875 became Physics assistant, in the University of Riga. In 1877, was appointed director of the Physics and Chemistry Institute in Leipzig. Ostwald, a pioneer in the Physical-Chemistry area, defended the theory of electrolytic dissociation of Arrhenius. The contribution of Ostwald to this theory was based on his studies of affinity constants for acids and bases and of reaction speeds.

Founded the Journal of Physical-Chemistry in 1887, invented the Ostwald viscometer and, in 1900, developed the Ostwald-Brauer process for producing nitric acid from ammonia, using platinum as catalyst. The combination of Haber and Ostwald processes led to the possibility of explosive synthesis for the 1914-18 war. Ever since, these processes are used world wide to produce explosives and fertilizers.

In Leipzig, Ostwald built a special laboratory sought by students from all over the world to study the new science - Chemiscal-Physics. This laboratory was home of the best teachers and researchers in the following decades.

Besides his scientific career, Ostwald tried to develop an universal language, and was also a painter. This activity led him to develop the chemistry of color.

In 1909, was awarded the Nobel Prize of Chemistry for his work in catalysis, chemical balance and reaction speeds. Published, under the name Ostwald Klassiker, about two hundred German translations of articles related to Chemistry and Physics.