Irving Langmuir

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History proves abundantly that pure science, undertaken without regard to applications to human needs, is usually ultimately of direct benefit to mankind.

Irving Langmuir (31 January 188116 August 1957) was an American chemist and physicist. His most noted publication was the famous 1919 article "The Arrangement of Electrons in Atoms and Molecules" in which, building on Gilbert N. Lewis's cubical atom theory and Walther Kossel's chemical bonding theory, he outlined his "concentric theory of atomic structure". He was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in surface chemistry.


  • In general, the rate of evaporation (m) of a substance in a high vacuum is related to the pressure (p) of the saturated vapor by the equation Red phosphorus and some other substances probably form exceptions to this rule.
    • "The Constitution and Fundamental Properties of Solids and Liquids" Part I : Solids, Journal of the American Chemical Society (5 September 1916)
  • To me, [it's] extremely interesting that men, perfectly honest, enthusiastic over their work, can so completely fool themselves.
    • 1953 talk, as quoted in "Pathological Science", Physics Today No. 42 (October 1989), p. 36 - 48

Nobel Prize banquet speech (1932)[edit]

Nobel Prize banquet speech (1932)
  • Science, almost from its beginnings, has been truly international in character. National prejudices disappear completely in the scientist’s search for truth. Medicine also disregards national boundaries. And literature frequently rises to heights that make it international.
    The scientist is motivated primarily by curiosity and a desire for truth. His attitude is objective rather than subjective. In his work he finds great satisfaction in discovering new facts or new relationships between known facts, but even greater pleasure is derived from seeing his results incorporated into the body of scientific knowledge and from seeing them willingly used by others in the further development of science.
  • History proves abundantly that pure science, undertaken without regard to applications to human needs, is usually ultimately of direct benefit to mankind. Within recent years it has become possible for purely scientific work of this character to be carried out with the support of industries, which are, of course, primarily interested in the commercial applications. The scientist who works in this way is frequently especially fortunate in that he not only derives the satisfactions which are characteristic of scientific work in general, but is able to see that many of his results are almost immediately put into a form which directly benefits mankind.
    Happy indeed is the scientist who not only has the pleasures which I have enumerated, but who also wins the recognition of fellow scientists and of the mankind which ultimately benefits from his endeavors.
    To my mind, the most important aspect of the Nobel Awards is that they bring home to the masses of the peoples of all nations, a realization of their common interests. They carry to those who have no direct contact with science the international spirit.

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