Theodore William Richards was born in Philadelphia, USA, on January 31, 1868. He entered Haverford College, Pennsylvania, USA, at the age of 14 after having been home schooled by his mother. He gained his B.Sc. in 1885 from Haverford College then enrolled at Harvard University, USA, and completed a B.A. there in 1886. He remained at Harvard for his Ph.D., working on the atomic weight of oxygen relative to hydrogen under the supervision of Josiah Parsons Cooke. Richards spent a year doing postdoctoral research at Göttingen University, Germany, before returning to Harvard University as Assistant in Chemistry. He was successively promoted, becoming full professor there in 1901. Richards remained at Harvard University until his death in 1928. During his time at Harvard, he served as Chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Director of the Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory. He also served as President of the American Chemical Society in 1914.
Richards received many awards for his work on atomic weights, including the 1914 Nobel Prize in Chemistry – the first American scientist to receive the prize. While his chemical determinations of atomic mass have largely been superseded by mass spectrometric techniques, Richards is remembered for his precision in atomic weight measurements and for providing the first experimental evidence of isotopes in lead samples.
Image © Marc Genovese, www.mgenovese.it.
Theodore William Richards is the answer to Guess the Chemist (13) which gave details about his work measuring atomic weights
- Theodore William Richards (1868–1928),
James Bryant Conant,
Biographical Memoirs of the US National Academy of Sciences 1974.
- Modifikation des Hempel’schen Apparates zur Gasanalyse,
Theodore William Richards,
Zeit. anorg. Chem. 1902, 29(1), 359–364.
- Revision des Atomgewichtes von Nickel. Zweite Mitteilung. Die Bestimmung des Nickels im Nickelbromid,
Theodore William Richards, Allerton Seward Cushman,
Zeit. anorg. Chem. 1899, 20(4), 352–376.
- The relative values of the atomic weights of hydrogen and oxygen,
Theodore William Richards, Josiah Parsons Cooke,
Am. Chem. J. 1888, 10, 81–110.