Gerhard Herzberg

An Illustrious Life in Science

By (author) Boris Stoicheff
Categories: Biography & Autobiography
Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press
Hardcover : 9780660187570, 482 pages, October 2002


Gerhard Herzberg (1904-1999), winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, is considered the founder of molecular spectroscopy. Born and educated in Germany, he started his seven decades of research just as the discovery of quantum mechanics began unraveling the mysteries of the microscopic world. He chose to study spectroscopy, the light emitted and absorbed by atoms and molecules, eventually moving to Canada where he established the spectroscopy laboratory for the National Research Council. His Ottawa laboratory became a mecca for generations of young scientists from around the world. There Herzberg systematized the knowledge of the field in the classic trilogy Molecular Spectra and Molecular Structure, Atomic Spectra, and Atomic Structure. In awarding the Nobel Prize the Swedish Academy said, “It’s quite exceptional in the field of science that a single individual, however distinguished, can be a leader of a whole area of research of general importance. ”