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Sir William Ramsay and the Noble Gases

Posted on 24. April, 2012.

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Sir William Ramsay was one of the world’s leading scientists at the end of the 19th century, and in a spectacular period of research between 1894 and 1898, he discovered five new elements. These were the noble gases, helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon; they added a whole new group to the Periodic Table of the elements, and provided the keystone to our understanding of the electronic structure of atoms, and the way those electrons bind the atoms together into molecules.

For this work he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1904, the first such prize to come to a British subject. He was also a man of great charm, a good linguist, and a composer and performer of music, poetry and song. This review will trace his career, describe his character, and give and account of the chemistry which led to the award of the Nobel Prize.

ALWYN G. DAVIES FRS
UCL, London, UK

Doi: 10.3184/003685012X13307058213813

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Keywords: William Ramsay, noble gases, helium, neon, argon, krypton