picture of the day
Plasma pioneer Irving Langmuir
Jan 31, 2008
Happy Birthday Irving Langmuir
Nobel Prize laureate and one of the
pioneers of plasma science.
Born over a century ago on January 31, 1881, in Brooklyn, New
York, Langmuir's research into ionized gasses led him in 1928 to apply the word
"plasma" because they reminded him of some of the properties of blood plasma.
In the 1920s, Langmuir discovered the double layer, an electrostatic structure
that may appear in a plasma, consisting of two layers of oppositely charged
ions. Langmuir's electrodes used to probe and study gas discharges are named
In the Forward to the Collected Works of Irving
Langmuir, C. Guy Suits noted that "One striking feature of his research method
was its instrumental simplicity… [H]is own experiments were almost invariably
simple and uncluttered. He seemed positively attracted to simple experimental
techniques, in refreshing contrast to what sometimes appears to be a fashionable
reliance on impressive and expensive complexity of research equipment."
Langmuir's lifelong scientific papers were to have been published in a three or
four volume compendium, but the quantity of his papers proved to be much greater
than anticipated, and the resulting "The
Collected Works of Irving Langmuir" was published in 12 volumes in 1961.
Langmuir won the 1932 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work in surface
chemistry. He died in 1957.
Contributed by Ian Tresman
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