Svante Arrhenius

Svante Arrhenius

Overview
Svante August Arrhenius (19 February 1859 – 2 October 1927) was a Swedish
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 scientist
Scientist
A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

, originally a physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, but often referred to as a chemist
Chemist
A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

, and one of the founders of the science of physical chemistry
Physical chemistry
Physical chemistry is the study of macroscopic, atomic, subatomic, and particulate phenomena in chemical systems in terms of physical laws and concepts...

. The Arrhenius equation
Arrhenius equation
The Arrhenius equation is a simple, but remarkably accurate, formula for the temperature dependence of the reaction rate constant, and therefore, rate of a chemical reaction. The equation was first proposed by the Dutch chemist J. H. van 't Hoff in 1884; five years later in 1889, the Swedish...

, lunar
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 crater
Impact crater
In the broadest sense, the term impact crater can be applied to any depression, natural or manmade, resulting from the high velocity impact of a projectile with a larger body...

 Arrhenius
Arrhenius (lunar crater)
Arrhenius is a lunar impact crater that is located just on the far side of the Moon, near the southwest limb. In this location the vicinity of the crater can be viewed during favorable librations, although it is viewed from on edge...

 and the Arrhenius Labs at Stockholm University
Stockholm University
Stockholm University is a state university in Stockholm, Sweden. It has over 28,000 students at four faculties, making it one of the largest universities in Scandinavia. The institution is also frequently regarded as one of the top 100 universities in the world...

 are named after him.

Arrhenius was born on February 19, 1859 at Vik (also spelled Wik or Wijk), near Uppsala
Uppsala
- Economy :Today Uppsala is well established in medical research and recognized for its leading position in biotechnology.*Abbott Medical Optics *GE Healthcare*Pfizer *Phadia, an offshoot of Pharmacia*Fresenius*Q-Med...

, Sweden, the son of Svante Gustav and Carolina Thunberg Arrhenius.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Svante Arrhenius'
Start a new discussion about 'Svante Arrhenius'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Svante August Arrhenius (19 February 1859 – 2 October 1927) was a Swedish
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 scientist
Scientist
A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

, originally a physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, but often referred to as a chemist
Chemist
A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

, and one of the founders of the science of physical chemistry
Physical chemistry
Physical chemistry is the study of macroscopic, atomic, subatomic, and particulate phenomena in chemical systems in terms of physical laws and concepts...

. The Arrhenius equation
Arrhenius equation
The Arrhenius equation is a simple, but remarkably accurate, formula for the temperature dependence of the reaction rate constant, and therefore, rate of a chemical reaction. The equation was first proposed by the Dutch chemist J. H. van 't Hoff in 1884; five years later in 1889, the Swedish...

, lunar
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 crater
Impact crater
In the broadest sense, the term impact crater can be applied to any depression, natural or manmade, resulting from the high velocity impact of a projectile with a larger body...

 Arrhenius
Arrhenius (lunar crater)
Arrhenius is a lunar impact crater that is located just on the far side of the Moon, near the southwest limb. In this location the vicinity of the crater can be viewed during favorable librations, although it is viewed from on edge...

 and the Arrhenius Labs at Stockholm University
Stockholm University
Stockholm University is a state university in Stockholm, Sweden. It has over 28,000 students at four faculties, making it one of the largest universities in Scandinavia. The institution is also frequently regarded as one of the top 100 universities in the world...

 are named after him.

Early years


Arrhenius was born on February 19, 1859 at Vik (also spelled Wik or Wijk), near Uppsala
Uppsala
- Economy :Today Uppsala is well established in medical research and recognized for its leading position in biotechnology.*Abbott Medical Optics *GE Healthcare*Pfizer *Phadia, an offshoot of Pharmacia*Fresenius*Q-Med...

, Sweden, the son of Svante Gustav and Carolina Thunberg Arrhenius. His father had been a land surveyor
Surveying
See Also: Public Land Survey SystemSurveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them...

 for Uppsala University
Uppsala University
Uppsala University is a research university in Uppsala, Sweden, and is the oldest university in Scandinavia, founded in 1477. It consistently ranks among the best universities in Northern Europe in international rankings and is generally considered one of the most prestigious institutions of...

, moving up to a supervisory position. At the age of three, Arrhenius taught himself to read without the encouragement of his parents, and by watching his father's addition of numbers in his account books, became an arithmetic
Arithmetic
Arithmetic or arithmetics is the oldest and most elementary branch of mathematics, used by almost everyone, for tasks ranging from simple day-to-day counting to advanced science and business calculations. It involves the study of quantity, especially as the result of combining numbers...

al prodigy
Child prodigy
A child prodigy is someone who, at an early age, masters one or more skills far beyond his or her level of maturity. One criterion for classifying prodigies is: a prodigy is a child, typically younger than 18 years old, who is performing at the level of a highly trained adult in a very demanding...

. In later life, Arrhenius enjoyed using masses of data to discover mathematical relationships and laws.

At age 8, he entered the local cathedral school, starting in the fifth grade
Fifth grade
Fifth grade is a year of education in the United States and many other nations. The fifth grade is the fifth school year after kindergarten. Students are usually 10 – 11 years old, and are preteens...

, distinguishing himself in physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 and mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, and graduating as the youngest and most able student in 1876.

At the University of Uppsala, he was unsatisfied with the chief instructor of physics and the only faculty member who could have supervised him in chemistry, Per Teodor Cleve
Per Teodor Cleve
Per Teodor Cleve was a Swedish chemist and geologist.After graduating from the Stockholm Gymnasium in 1858, Cleve matriculated at Uppsala University in May 1858, where he received his PhD in 1863...

, so he left to study at the Physical Institute of the Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm
Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

 under the physicist Erik Edlund in 1881. His work focused on the conductivities
Conductivity (electrolytic)
The conductivity of an electrolyte solution is a measure of its ability to conduct electricity. The SI unit of conductivity is siemens per meter ....

 of electrolyte
Electrolyte
In chemistry, an electrolyte is any substance containing free ions that make the substance electrically conductive. The most typical electrolyte is an ionic solution, but molten electrolytes and solid electrolytes are also possible....

s. In 1884, based on this work, he submitted a 150-page dissertation on electrolytic conductivity to Uppsala for the doctorate
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

. It did not impress the professors, like Per Teodor Cleve
Per Teodor Cleve
Per Teodor Cleve was a Swedish chemist and geologist.After graduating from the Stockholm Gymnasium in 1858, Cleve matriculated at Uppsala University in May 1858, where he received his PhD in 1863...

, and he received a fourth class degree, but upon his defence it was reclassified as third class. Later, extensions of this very work would earn him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature,...

.

There were 56 theses put forth in the 1884 dissertation, and most would still be accepted today unchanged or with minor modifications.
The most important idea in the dissertation was his explanation of the fact that neither pure salt
Salt
In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

s nor pure water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 is a conductor, but solutions of salts in water are.

Arrhenius' explanation was that in forming a solution, the salt dissociates into charged particles (which Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday, FRS was an English chemist and physicist who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry....

 had given the name ion
Ion
An ion is an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving it a net positive or negative electrical charge. The name was given by physicist Michael Faraday for the substances that allow a current to pass between electrodes in a...

s many years earlier). Faraday's belief had been that ions were produced in the process of electrolysis
Electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

; Arrhenius proposed that, even in the absence of an electric current, solutions of salts contained ions.
He thus proposed that chemical reactions in solution were reactions between ions.

The dissertation was not very impressive to the professors at Uppsala, but Arrhenius sent it to a number of scientists in Europe who were developing the new science of physical chemistry
Physical chemistry
Physical chemistry is the study of macroscopic, atomic, subatomic, and particulate phenomena in chemical systems in terms of physical laws and concepts...

, such as Rudolf Clausius
Rudolf Clausius
Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius , was a German physicist and mathematician and is considered one of the central founders of the science of thermodynamics. By his restatement of Sadi Carnot's principle known as the Carnot cycle, he put the theory of heat on a truer and sounder basis...

, Wilhelm Ostwald
Wilhelm Ostwald
Friedrich Wilhelm Ostwald was a Baltic German chemist. He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1909 for his work on catalysis, chemical equilibria and reaction velocities...

, and J. H. van 't Hoff.
They were far more impressed, and Ostwald even came to Uppsala to persuade Arrhenius to join his research team. Arrhenius declined, however, as he preferred to stay in Sweden for a while (his father was very ill and would die in 1885) and had received an appointment at Uppsala.

In an extension of his ionic theory
Ion
An ion is an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving it a net positive or negative electrical charge. The name was given by physicist Michael Faraday for the substances that allow a current to pass between electrodes in a...

 Arrhenius proposed definitions for acid
Acid
An acid is a substance which reacts with a base. Commonly, acids can be identified as tasting sour, reacting with metals such as calcium, and bases like sodium carbonate. Aqueous acids have a pH of less than 7, where an acid of lower pH is typically stronger, and turn blue litmus paper red...

s and bases
Base (chemistry)
For the term in genetics, see base A base in chemistry is a substance that can accept hydrogen ions or more generally, donate electron pairs. A soluble base is referred to as an alkali if it contains and releases hydroxide ions quantitatively...

, in 1884. He believed that acids were substances which produce hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 ions in solution
Solution
In chemistry, a solution is a homogeneous mixture composed of only one phase. In such a mixture, a solute is dissolved in another substance, known as a solvent. The solvent does the dissolving.- Types of solutions :...

 and that bases were substances which produce hydroxide ions in solution.

Middle period


Arrhenius next received a travel grant from the Swedish Academy of Sciences, which enabled him to study with Ostwald in Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 (now in Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

), with Friedrich Kohlrausch
Friedrich Kohlrausch
Friedrich Wilhelm Georg Kohlrausch was a German physicist who investigated the conductive properties of electrolytes and contributed to knowledge of their behaviour...

 in Würzburg
Würzburg
Würzburg is a city in the region of Franconia which lies in the northern tip of Bavaria, Germany. Located at the Main River, it is the capital of the Regierungsbezirk Lower Franconia. The regional dialect is Franconian....

, Germany, with Ludwig Boltzmann
Ludwig Boltzmann
Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann was an Austrian physicist famous for his founding contributions in the fields of statistical mechanics and statistical thermodynamics...

 in Graz, Austria, and with van 't Hoff in Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

.

In 1889 Arrhenius explained the fact that most reactions require added heat energy to proceed by formulating the concept of activation energy
Activation energy
In chemistry, activation energy is a term introduced in 1889 by the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius that is defined as the energy that must be overcome in order for a chemical reaction to occur. Activation energy may also be defined as the minimum energy required to start a chemical reaction...

, an energy barrier that must be overcome before two molecules will react.
The Arrhenius equation
Arrhenius equation
The Arrhenius equation is a simple, but remarkably accurate, formula for the temperature dependence of the reaction rate constant, and therefore, rate of a chemical reaction. The equation was first proposed by the Dutch chemist J. H. van 't Hoff in 1884; five years later in 1889, the Swedish...

 gives the quantitative basis of the relationship between the activation energy and the rate at which a reaction proceeds.

In 1891 he became a lecturer at the Stockholm University College (Stockholms Högskola, now Stockholm University
Stockholm University
Stockholm University is a state university in Stockholm, Sweden. It has over 28,000 students at four faculties, making it one of the largest universities in Scandinavia. The institution is also frequently regarded as one of the top 100 universities in the world...

), being promoted to professor of physics (with much opposition) in 1895, and rector
Rector
The word rector has a number of different meanings; it is widely used to refer to an academic, religious or political administrator...

 in 1896.

He was married twice, to his former pupil Sofia Rudbeck (1894 to 1896), with whom he had one son, and to Maria Johansson (1905 to 1927), with whom he had two daughters and a son.

About 1900, Arrhenius became involved in setting up the Nobel Institutes and the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

s. He was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences or Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. The Academy is an independent, non-governmental scientific organization which acts to promote the sciences, primarily the natural sciences and mathematics.The Academy was founded on 2...

 in 1901. For the rest of his life, he would be a member of the Nobel Committee
Nobel Committee
A Nobel Committee is the working body responsible for the most of the work involved in selecting Nobel Prize laureates. There are five Nobel Committees, one for each Nobel Prize....

 on Physics and a de facto member of the Nobel Committee on Chemistry. He used his positions to arrange prizes for his friends (Jacobus van't Hoff, Wilhelm Ostwald
Wilhelm Ostwald
Friedrich Wilhelm Ostwald was a Baltic German chemist. He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1909 for his work on catalysis, chemical equilibria and reaction velocities...

, Theodore Richards
Theodore William Richards
Theodore William Richards was the first American scientist to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, earning the award "in recognition of his exact determinations of the atomic weights of a large number of the chemical elements."- Biography :Theodore Richards was born in Germantown, Philadelphia,...

) and to attempt to deny them to his enemies (Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich was a German scientist in the fields of hematology, immunology, and chemotherapy, and Nobel laureate. He is noted for curing syphilis and for his research in autoimmunity, calling it "horror autotoxicus"...

, Walther Nernst
Walther Nernst
Walther Hermann Nernst FRS was a German physical chemist and physicist who is known for his theories behind the calculation of chemical affinity as embodied in the third law of thermodynamics, for which he won the 1920 Nobel Prize in chemistry...

, Dmitri Mendeleev
Dmitri Mendeleev
Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev , was a Russian chemist and inventor. He is credited as being the creator of the first version of the periodic table of elements...

). In 1901 Arrhenius was elected to the Swedish Academy of Sciences, against strong opposition. In 1903 he became the first Swede to be awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature,...

.
In 1905, upon the founding of the Nobel Institute for Physical Research at Stockholm, he was appointed rector
Rector
The word rector has a number of different meanings; it is widely used to refer to an academic, religious or political administrator...

 of the institute, the position where he remained until retirement in 1927. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1910. In 1912, he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...


Later years


Eventually, Arrhenius' theories became generally accepted and he turned to other scientific topics. In 1902 he began to investigate physiological
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

 problems in terms of chemical theory. He determined that reactions in living organisms and in the test tube followed the same laws. In 1904 he delivered at the University of California
University of California
The University of California is a public university system in the U.S. state of California. Under the California Master Plan for Higher Education, the University of California is a part of the state's three-tier public higher education system, which also includes the California State University...

 a course of lectures, the object of which was to illustrate the application of the methods of physical chemistry to the study of the theory of toxins and antitoxins, and which were published in 1907 under the title Immunochemistry.
He also turned his attention to geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

 (the origin of ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

s), astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

, physical cosmology
Physical cosmology
Physical cosmology, as a branch of astronomy, is the study of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and is concerned with fundamental questions about its formation and evolution. For most of human history, it was a branch of metaphysics and religion...

, and astrophysics
Astrophysics
Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe, including the physical properties of celestial objects, as well as their interactions and behavior...

, accounting for the birth of the solar system
Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

 by interstellar collision.
He considered radiation pressure
Radiation pressure
Radiation pressure is the pressure exerted upon any surface exposed to electromagnetic radiation. If absorbed, the pressure is the power flux density divided by the speed of light...

 as accounting for comet
Comet
A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are both due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet...

s, the solar corona
Corona
A corona is a type of plasma "atmosphere" of the Sun or other celestial body, extending millions of kilometers into space, most easily seen during a total solar eclipse, but also observable in a coronagraph...

, the aurora borealis, and zodiacal light
Zodiacal light
Zodiacal light is a faint, roughly triangular, whitish glow seen in the night sky which appears to extend up from the vicinity of the sun along the ecliptic or zodiac. Caused by sunlight scattered by space dust in the zodiacal cloud, it is so faint that either moonlight or light pollution renders...

.
He thought life might have been carried from planet to planet by the transport of spore
Spore
In biology, a spore is a reproductive structure that is adapted for dispersal and surviving for extended periods of time in unfavorable conditions. Spores form part of the life cycles of many bacteria, plants, algae, fungi and some protozoa. According to scientist Dr...

s, the theory now known as panspermia. He thought of the idea of a universal language
Universal language
Universal language may refer to a hypothetical or historical language spoken and understood by all or most of the world's population. In some circles, it is a language said to be understood by all living things, beings, and objects alike. It may be the ideal of an international auxiliary language...

, proposing a modification of the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

.

In his last years he wrote both textbooks and popular books, trying to emphasize the need for further work on the topics he discussed.

In September, 1927, he came down with an attack of acute intestinal
Intestine
In human anatomy, the intestine is the segment of the alimentary canal extending from the pyloric sphincter of the stomach to the anus and, in humans and other mammals, consists of two segments, the small intestine and the large intestine...

 catarrh
Catarrh
Catarrh is a disorder of inflammation of the mucous membranes in one of the airways or cavities of the body. It can result in a thick exudate of mucus and white blood cells caused by the swelling of the mucous membranes in the head in response to an infection...

, died on 2 October, and was buried in Uppsala.

Greenhouse effect


Arrhenius developed a theory to explain the ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

s, and in 1896 he was the first scientist to speculate that changes in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could substantially alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect
Greenhouse effect
The greenhouse effect is a process by which thermal radiation from a planetary surface is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated in all directions. Since part of this re-radiation is back towards the surface, energy is transferred to the surface and the lower atmosphere...

. He was influenced by the work of others, including Joseph Fourier
Joseph Fourier
Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier was a French mathematician and physicist best known for initiating the investigation of Fourier series and their applications to problems of heat transfer and vibrations. The Fourier transform and Fourier's Law are also named in his honour...

. Arrhenius used the infrared observations of the moon by Frank Washington Very
Frank Washington Very
Frank Washington Very was a U.S. astronomer. He was born at Salem, Massachusetts, and educated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology ....

 and Samuel Pierpont Langley
Samuel Pierpont Langley
Samuel Pierpont Langley was an American astronomer, physicist, inventor of the bolometer and pioneer of aviation...

 at the Allegheny Observatory
Allegheny Observatory
The Allegheny Observatory is an American astronomical research institution, a part of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh. The facility is listed on the National Register of Historical Places The Allegheny Observatory is an American astronomical research...

 in Pittsburgh to calculate the absorption of infrared radiation by atmospheric CO2 and water vapour. Using 'Stefan's law' (better known as the Stefan Boltzmann law), he formulated his greenhouse law.
In its original form, Arrhenius' greenhouse law reads as follows:
if the quantity of carbonic acid increases in geometric progression, the augmentation of the temperature will increase nearly in arithmetic progression.

This simplified expression is still used today:
ΔF = α ln(C/)

Arrhenius' high absorption values for CO2, however, met criticism by Knut Ångström
Knut Ångström
Knut Johan Ångström was a Swedish physicist. He was the son of physicist Anders Jonas Ångström and studied in Uppsala from 1877 to 1884, when he received his licentiat-degree, before going for a short time to the University of Strassburg to study with August Kundt...

 in 1900, who published the first modern infrared spectrum of CO2 with two absorption bands. Arrhenius replied strongly in 1901 (Annalen der Physik), dismissing the critique altogether. He touched the subject briefly in a technical book titled Lehrbuch der kosmischen Physik (1903). He later wrote Världarnas utveckling (1906), German translation: Das Werden der Welten (1907), English translation: Worlds in the Making (1908) directed at a general audience, where he suggested that the human emission of CO2 would be strong enough to prevent the world from entering a new ice age, and that a warmer earth would be needed to feed the rapidly increasing population:
"To a certain extent the temperature of the earth's surface, as we shall presently see, is conditioned by the properties of the atmosphere surrounding it, and particularly by the permeability of the latter for the rays of heat." (p46)
"That the atmospheric envelopes limit the heat losses from the planets had been suggested about 1800 by the great French physicist Fourier. His ideas were further developed afterwards by Pouillet and Tyndall. Their theory has been styled the hot-house theory, because they thought that the atmosphere acted after the manner of the glass panes of hot-houses." (p51)
"If the quantity of carbonic acid in the air should sink to one-half its present percentage, the temperature would fall by about 4°; a diminution to one-quarter would reduce the temperature by 8°. On the other hand, any doubling of the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air would raise the temperature of the earth's surface by 4°; and if the carbon dioxide were increased fourfold, the temperature would rise by 8°." (p53)
"Although the sea, by absorbing carbonic acid, acts as a regulator of huge capacity, which takes up about five-sixths of the produced carbonic acid, we yet recognize that the slight percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere may by the advances of industry be changed to a noticeable degree in the course of a few centuries." (p54)
"Since, now, warm ages have alternated with glacial periods, even after man appeared on the earth, we have to ask ourselves: Is it probable that we shall in the coming geological ages be visited by a new ice period that will drive us from our temperate countries into the hotter climates of Africa? There does not appear to be much ground for such an apprehension. The enormous combustion of coal by our industrial establishments suffices to increase the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air to a perceptible degree." (p61)
"We often hear lamentations that the coal stored up in the earth is wasted by the present generation without any thought of the future, and we are terrified by the awful destruction of life and property which has followed the volcanic eruptions of our days. We may find a kind of consolation in the consideration that here, as in every other case, there is good mixed with the evil. By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates, especially as regards the colder regions of the earth, ages when the earth will bring forth much more abundant crops than at present, for the benefit of rapidly propagating mankind." (p63)


He was the first person to predict that emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels and other combustion processes would cause global warming. Arrhenius clearly believed that a warmer world would be a positive change. From that, the hot-house theory gained more attention. Nevertheless, until about 1960, most scientists dismissed the hot-house / greenhouse effect as implausible for the cause of ice ages as Milutin Milankovitch had presented a mechanism using orbital changes of the earth (Milankovitch cycles
Milankovitch cycles
Milankovitch theory describes the collective effects of changes in the Earth's movements upon its climate, named after Serbian civil engineer and mathematician Milutin Milanković, who worked on it during First World War internment...

). Nowadays, the accepted explanation is that orbital forcing
Orbital forcing
Orbital forcing is the effect on climate of slow changes in the tilt of the Earth's axis and shape of the orbit . These orbital changes change the total amount of sunlight reaching the Earth by up to 25% at mid-latitudes...

 sets the timing for ice ages with CO2 acting as an essential amplifying feedback
Positive feedback
Positive feedback is a process in which the effects of a small disturbance on a system include an increase in the magnitude of the perturbation. That is, A produces more of B which in turn produces more of A. In contrast, a system that responds to a perturbation in a way that reduces its effect is...

.

Arrhenius estimated that halving of CO2 would decrease temperatures by 4–5 °C (Celsius) and a doubling of CO2 would cause a temperature rise of 5–6 °C. In his 1906 publication, Arrhenius adjusted the value downwards to 1.6 °C (including water vapour feedback: 2.1 °C). Recent (2007) estimates from IPCC
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a scientific intergovernmental body which provides comprehensive assessments of current scientific, technical and socio-economic information worldwide about the risk of climate change caused by human activity, its potential environmental and...

 say this value (the Climate sensitivity
Climate sensitivity
Climate sensitivity is a measure of how responsive the temperature of the climate system is to a change in the radiative forcing. It is usually expressed as the temperature change associated with a doubling of the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere.The equilibrium climate...

) is likely to be between 2 and 4.5 °C. Arrhenius expected CO2 levels to rise at a rate given by emissions in his time. Since then, industrial carbon dioxide levels have risen at a much faster rate: Arrhenius expected CO2 doubling to take about 3000 years; it is now estimated in most scenarios to take about a century.

Racial biology


Svante Arrhenius was one of several leading Swedish scientists actively engaged in the process leading to the creation in 1922 of The State Institute for Racial Biology
Statens institut för rasbiologi
Statens institut för rasbiologi was a Swedish governmental research institute founded in 1922 with the stated purpose of studying eugenics and human genetics. It was located in Uppsala and as a governmental agency, it was the world’s first of its kind...

 in Uppsala, Sweden, which had originally been proposed as a Nobel Institute. Arrhenius was a member of the institute's board, as he had been in The Swedish Society for Racial Hygiene (Eugenics), founded in 1909.

Further reading

  • Crawford, Elisabeth T. Arrhenius: from ionic theory to the greenhouse effect Canton, MA: Science History Publications. ISBN 0881351660
  • Patrick Coffey, Cathedrals of Science: The Personalities and Rivalries That Made Modern Chemistry, Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-532134-0

External links