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Bury, Charles

account chemical electronic relation

[be ree] (1890–1968) British physical chemist: little-known theorist on electronic structure of atoms.

Usually credited with the feat of giving the first clear account of the arrangement of electrons in atoms and its relation to chemical behaviour. In fact the first rough suggestion of electron ‘shells’ is due to (1904), and (1919) gave a more detailed shell model (partly incorrect), which he linked with chemical behaviour. In 1921 Bohr gave a better version, but it was very brief and was only a limited account (he gives electronic structures only for the noble gases). Within a month, a concise, clear and complete account was given by Bury (in the Journal of the American Chemical Society ), who had written his paper before he saw Bohr’s. All later accounts use the Bury scheme.

Bury was an Oxford graduate in chemistry who served 5 years in the First World War. His classic paper, written when he was 31, was his first, but he went on to study the relation of colour to structure in dyes and the properties of micelles. Again, his work on dyes appears to have preceded better-known work by others: Bury was a modest man.

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