Alfred Werner

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Werner, Alfred,

1866–1919, French-born Swiss chemist, Ph.D. Univ. of Zürich, 1890. Werner was a professor at the Univ. of Zürich from 1893 until his death in 1919. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1913 for his work on the linkage of atoms in molecules, which opened up new fields of research in inorganic chemistry. Werner is best known for applying principles of geometry to identifying the structure of molecular compounds, a field of study now known as coordination chemistry. His work has had applications not only in chemistry and biochemistry but also in related sciences including mineralogy and crystallography.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Werner, Alfred


Born Dec. 12, 1866, in Mulhouse, Alsace; died Nov. 15, 1919, in Zürich. Swiss inorganic chemist. One of the founders of the chemistry of complex compounds.

Werner graduated from a higher polytechnical school in Zürich in 1889, and in 1890 he defended his doctoral dissertation On the Spatial Distribution of Atoms in Nitrogen Compounds. In 1893 he became a professor at the University of Zürich. He published a work on chemical affinity and valence in 1891 and his first work on the structure of inorganic compounds in 1893. Werner decisively rejected the generally accepted conceptions of a stable and directed valence that were used to interpret the structure of inorganic compounds and proposed a “coordination theory” of complex compounds. He devoted his subsequent work to the substantiation and development of this theory. Werner synthesized numerous compounds. He systematized them, as well as all the compounds known up to his time, and worked out experimental methods for demonstrating their structures. Werner’s conception of internally complex compounds helped to elucidate the structure of many organic substances (chlorophyll, hemoglobin, and others).

Werner’s coordination theory has been applied extensively in other fields of knowledge and forms the foundation of the chemistry of complex compounds. He received a Nobel Prize in 1913.


In Russian translation:
Novye vozzreniia v oblasti neorganicheskoi khimii, 5th ed. Leningrad, 1936.


Chugaev, L. A. “Professor Al’fred Veraer.” In his book Izbr. trudy, vol. 3. Moscow, 1962.
Skanavi-Grigor’eva, M. S. “Al’fred Verner.” Uspekhi khimii, 1945, vol. 14, issue 4.
Karrer, P. “Alfred Werner.” Helvetica chimica acta, 1920, vol. 3, p. 196.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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