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Sidgwick, Nevil Vincent

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(1873–1952) British theoretical chemist: systematizer of valence theory.

Sidgwick maintained a family tradition for intellectual virtuosity by getting a First in science at Oxford and then another First in classics 2 years later, a feat which has probably proved unrepeatable. After further study in Germany he took a post in Oxford in 1901 and kept it for his lifetime. He was an odd person in several ways; he looked middle-aged when young and changed only slowly afterwards; his own experimental work was unimportant; his best ideas came after he was 50; and his great influence in chemistry is largely due to three books. In each of them, he brought together a mass of work by others, added his own ideas and produced a coherent and unified account that clarified chemical ideas and pointed the way to new work. The first was his Organic Chemistry of Nitrogen (1910); the second was the Electronic Theory of Valency (1927), in which his own major contribution to chemical theory was to develop the idea of bonds in which one atom donated both electrons forming the covalent bond, a concept which gave new life to the whole chemistry of metal complexes. His last book was Chemical Elements and their Compounds (1950), a vast review that he was able to produce because of the cessation of normal published research in the Second World War. In British science he was distinguished by his pungent wit and his wealth, and in the USA he was for years the best-known British scientist.

Sidney, Robert (1563–1626) - BIOGRAPHY, MAJOR WORKS AND THEMES, CRITICAL RECEPTION [next] [back] Sidekicks

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