Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cato Maximilian Guldberg

Cato Maximilian Guldberg was born on August 11, 1836 in Christiania (now Oslo) , Norway. He was educated at the University of Christiania. Starting in 1860 he taught mathematics at the Royal Military School. Later he became a professor of applied mathematics at the University of Christiana.

In 1863, working in collaboration with his brother-in-law Peter Waage (with whom he is pictured above, Guldberg is on the left) he formulated the law of mass action. This is a chemical law that says that the rate of any chemical reaction is proportional to the concentration of the reacting chemical(s). So for the chemical reaction A + B -> C, the rate of the reaction will be a constant (k) times the concentrations of A and B, such that rate = k[A][B], where [A] and [B] are the concentrations of A and B. Guldberg and Waage also investigated the effects of temperature on chemical reaction rates. Because Guldberg and Waage published in Norwegian the law of mass action when first published was largely ignored. When it was republished in French it still drew little attention until it was experimentally demonstrated by William Esson and Vernon Harcourt working at Oxford University.

Starting in 1870 Gulberg investigated how a dissolved substance affects the freezing point and vapor pressure of a pure liquid. In 1890 he formulated Guldberg's law which says that the boiling point of a liquid is two thirds the temperature of its critical temperature, the temperature at which a gas cannot be liquefied by increased pressure alone.

Gulberg died on January, 14, 1902 in his native city, which had respelled it's name to Kristiania.


Daintith, John; "Guldberg, Cato Maximilian (1836-1902)" in Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists, Third Edition; CRC Press; 2010

Tilden, Sir William Augustus; "Cato Maximilian Guldberg" in The Progress of Scientific Chemistry of Our Times; Longmans, Green; 1913

Cato Maximilian Guldberg Wikipedia Entry

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