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Irving Langmuir (1881 - 1957)

By Todd Helmenstine

Prolific inventor

Irving Langmuir

The Nobel Foundation


January 31, 1881 in Brooklyn, New York


August 16, 1957 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts at age 76.

Claim to Fame:


  • Greatly improved the light bulb by replacing the vacuum with inert nitrogen or argon and twisting the tungsten filament into a tight coil.


  • Developed the high vacuum electron tube.


  • Isolated atomic hydrogen and created the process of hydrogen welding.


  • Coined the term plasma for the fourth state of matter.


  • Contributed to atomic theory by proposing that atoms try to complete their outer shells with eight electrons (the octet rule).


  • During World War II, he worked to develop aircraft wing de-icing techniques and smokescreens. This lead to his work in weather control and cloud seeding with dry ice and silver iodide.


Notable Awards:


  • 1929 President of the American Chemical Society.


  • 1932 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Dr. Katherine B. Blodgett. He was the first non-academic chemist to be awarded the prize. The work was primarily about monolayers and surface absorption and created an entirely new discipline of thin film chemistry.


  • 1943 President of American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Interesting Trivia:

Mount Langmuir (elevation 8,156 ft) in Alaska is named after him.

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