This day in chemistry history: April 20

Ever wondered what happened today in chemistry? Read on to find out!!


We take a look back in time to see the significant scientific births, deaths and events that took place on April 20, keeping our focus on chemistry.

Kai Siegbahn, born April 20, 1918
Kai Siegbahn, born April 20, 1918
Dutch National Archives - Wikimedia Commons

Appropriately we start by looking at what influential chemists were born on April 20 throughout the years. Wilhelm Körner the German organic chemist was born in 1839 who in 1874 demonstrated how to determine the relative positions of two substituents on a benzene ring. In 1912 Gertrude Erika Perlmann was born on this day in Liberec, the main focus of her scientific career was protein chemistry, particularly phosphoproteins and also pepsin and pepsinogen. She was awarded the Garvan-Olin Medal from the American Chemical Society in 1965 which recognizes “distinguished scientific accomplishment, leadership and service to chemistry by women chemists”. Just six years later Kai Siegbahn the Sewdish physicist was born, he is the son of Manne Siegbahn who won the 1924 physics Nobel Prize. Following in his father’s footsteps Kai Siegbahn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1981 in recognition of his work in the development of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.


Charles Friedel, died April 20, 1899
Wikimedia Commons

This day has also marked the date we have lost some key chemistry minds. In 1821 German chemist Franz Karl Achard died, he is most remembered for his invention of a process to produce sugar from sugar beets. The French organic chemist Charles Friedel also passed away on this day in 1899, his name is unlikely to be forgotten as it forms one half of one of the most well-known set of chemical reactions, the Friedel-Crafts acylation and alkylation. The reactions were developed by Charles Friedel and James Crafts in 1877.


Marie and Pierre Curie experimenting with radium
Marie and Pierre Curie experimenting with radium
André Castaigne - Wikimedia Commons

It is also important to highlight the significant events in scientific history that took place on April 20. One of the most famous female scientists Marie Curie and her husband Pierre Curie isolated the radioactive element radium on this day in 1902. One year later the couple shared the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics with Antonie Henri Becquerel for their “joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel”. Marie Curie went on to be awarded a second Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911. In Philadelphia on April 20, 1940 Vladimir Zworykin and his team from RCA laboratories in New Jersey demonstrated their electron microscope which achieved a magnification of 100,000 times. The device measured 10 feet high and weighed over half a ton, we have come a long way since then!

Now we wait to see what history is being made today!!!

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One Comment

prof premraj pushpakaran

prof premraj pushpakaran writes – 2018 marks the 100th birth year of Kai Manne Börje Siegbahn!!

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