Friday, June 11, 2021

Moses Gomberg (1866-1947): Chemistry professor and the founder of organic free radical

Moses Gomberg was born on February 8, 1866, in the small town of Elizabetgrad, Russian, the son of George and Marie Resnikoff Gomberg.

From 1878 to 1884 he was a student on the Nicolau Gymnasium of his native town. In 1884 the he and his family emigrated to Chicago.

In 1886, Moses entered the University of Michigan, where he obtained his B.Sc in 1890 and his doctorate in 1894 under the supervision of A. B. Prescott. His thesis, titled ‘Trimethylxanthin and some of its Derivatives,” dealt with the derivatization of caffeine and was an extension of Prescott’s work.

Widely regarded as a fine teacher and lecturer, he was appointed an assistant professor in 1899 and a full professor in 1904. He served as chair of the Department of Chemistry from 1927 until his retirement in 1936. He was the president of the American Chemical Society in 1931.

During his first leave of absence from Michigan, Dr. Gomberg spent two terms in Baeyer's laboratory in Munich, and one term with Victor Meyer in Heidelberg. The research which he did in Munich was concerned with the preparation of isonitramino- and nitroso-iso-butyric acid.

In 1900, Moses confirmed the existence of a stable, trivalent organic free radical: triphenylmethyl. In so doing, he challenged the then prevailing belief that carbon could have only four chemical bonds.
Moses Gomberg (1866-1947): Chemistry professor and the founder of organic free radical

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