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Gerhard Herzberg

An Illustrious Life in Science

Gerhard Herzberg by Boris Stoicheff
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Gerhard Herzberg (1904-1999) was one of the greatest scientists of the last century. Born and educated in Germany, he started his research just as the exciting discovery of quantum mechanics began unraveling the mysteries of the microscopic world. Herzberg chose to study spectroscopy, the light emitted and absorbed by atoms and molecules, which has played a central role in the development of modern science. His succession of notable experimental and theoretical results during seven decades of active research led to his recognition as the founder of molecular spectroscopy.

The spectroscopy laboratory that Herzberg established in Ottawa, Canada became the ''Mecca'' for generations of young scientists from around the world, who enjoyed his hearty laugh, and came to know him as ''GH.'' He systematized the knowledge of the field by writing the classic trilogy Molecular Spectra and Molecular Structure along with the text Atomic Spectra and Atomic Structure. These books became the ''bible'' for physicists, chemists, and astronomers working in spectroscopy. In 1971, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, with the accolade of the Swedish Academy: ''It’s quite exceptional in the field of science, that a single individual, however distinguished, in this way can be a leader of a whole area of research of general importance.''

NRC Research Press; September 2002
483 pages; ISBN 9780660192581
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Title: Gerhard Herzberg
Author: Boris Stoicheff