Sunday, June 29, 2014

Peter Waage

Peter Waage was born on June 29, 1832 on the island Hidra, near Flekkefjord in Norway. His father, also named Peter, was a ship-master and owner so he was often away from home and Waage was raised and taught by his mother, Regine. Waage learned to read by age four and spent his youth collecting minerals, plants, and insects. He graduated high school in Christiana and began studying medicine at the university. After his first division he switched to chemistry. in 1858 Waage won the Crown Prince's Gold Medal for a paper he wrote about oxygen containing organic acids and he earned his doctorate in 1859. After graduating Waage won a scholarship to study in France and Germany, Waage as appointed as a lecturer in 1861 and professor of chemistry in 1866 at the University of Kristiana.

Waage is most remembered for his discovery, with his brother-in-law Otto Guldberg, of the law of mass action. The law of mass action says that the rate of a chemical reaction is proportional to the concentration of the chemical reacting. For the chemical reaction A + B --> AB the rate of the reaction is =k[A][B], where [A] and [B] are the concentrations of the reactants A and B and k is the the rate constant. The rate constant, k, varies depending on what the reaction is. Waage and Guldberg also studied the effects of temperature on chemical reactions. Because their paper was published in Norwegian it was largely unnoticed. The paper was later published in French and German and gained wide acceptance when the results were repeated by William Esson and Vernon Harcourt of Oxford University.

Waage and Guldberg were brother-in-laws twice over. Waage and Guldberg married sisters and after Waage's first wife died he married Guldberg's sister. Waage also discovered ways of preparing unsweetened condensed milk and sterile canned milk. Waage developed a condensed fish meal used as rations by the Norwegian Navy.

Waage died on January 13, 1900.


Albe, Joseph and Smith, Michelle; "Otto Guldberg and Peter Wage";

Ringnes, Vivi; "Peter Wage"; Retrived from

Peter Wage Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hermann Minkowski

Hermann Minkowski was born on June 22, 1864 in Aleksotas, Lithuania, then part of Poland and the Russian Empire. He was the third son of Lewin Minkowski, a Jewish merchant and his German wife Rachel. When Minkowski was 8 the family moved to Konigsberg, Germany (now Kaliningrad, Russia) to escape persecution and where he attended gymnasium school and showed an ability for mathematics. Minkowski attended the University of Kongisberg starting in 1880. He went to the University of Berlin for a three terms and shared a the Grand Prix des Sciences Mathematiques from the Paris Academy of Sciences with English mathematician Henry J.S. Smith in 1881, when he was 18. Minkowski earned his doctorate in 1885.

After two years of obligatory military service in 1887 Minkowski was appointed privatdozent at the University of Bonn. In 1892 Minkowski became an asOsociate professor at Bonn. In 1894 Minkowski joined the faculty of Zurich Polytechnic, where one of his students was Albert Einstein. In 1902 Minkowski took a chair in mathematics which had been created especially for him at Gottingen University. Minkowski remained in Gottingen util his death.

Minkowski is most remembered for his work on geometry and space-time. In Euclidean geometry there are three dimensions, representing the three dimensions of space. Minkowski incorporated a fourth dimension representing time to the Euclidean system where time and space are interlinked together forming a whole four dimensional system. This four dimensional space is called Minkowski space-time and arises naturally when consequences of relativity are considered.

Minkowski died suddenly of appendicitis on January 12, 1909.


O'Connor, J.J. and Robertson, E.F.; "Hermann Minkowski"; MacTuror; Retrieved from:

Manhanti, Subodh; "Hermann Minkowski: Founder of Geometry of Numbers"; Dream 2047 Vol.14 (May 2012) p40-42

Hermann Mikowski Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Thomas H. Weller

Thomas Huckle Weller was born on June 15th 1915 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Born into a family of physicians, his father served as chair of pathology at the University of Michigan Medical School.Weller attended the University of Michigan where he studied biology earning his BA in 1936. He completed his masters a year later and then went to  Harvard Medical School where he studied tropical medicine, graduating in 1940. Weller began his residency at Children's Hospital in Boston in 1941, but his training was interrupted by World War II and three years of service in the United States Army where he earned the rank of major and he headed the departments of bacteriology, virology and parisitology at the Army research station in Puerto Rico. After the war Weller returned to Harvard and the Department of Comparative Pathology and Tropical Medicine where he worked under John Franklin Enders.

Enders was working on growing viruses in culture. Viruses, unlike bacteria, are unable to reproduce on their own, so strictly speaking they are not living organisms. Viruses require a host cell in order to reproduce. Each cell has a mechanism by which it reproduces itself. Viruses take over this mechanism and use it to produce more viruses. Viruses grown in the laboratory must be grown in a cell culture. Different viruses infect and use different types of cells to reproduce. Enders and Weller were studying which types of cultured cells could be used to grow different types of viruses. Working with Enders, Weller was the first to be able to grow poliovirus in culture. Poliovirus enters humans via the the cells of the alimentary canal and migrates to other cells. It can infect motor neuron cells causing paralysis. For their development of the ability to cultivate the poliovirus Weller, Enders, and Frederick C. Robbins were awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. With the ability to grow poliovirus in culture Jonas Salk was able to create a vaccine for polio and the disease has virtually been eliminated.

In 1954 Weller was appointed the Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Tropical Public Health, which he remained until 1983. In addition to his work growing polio virus, Weller also isolated and grew varicella virus (the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles). He was also able to grow rubella and cytomeglovirus. Weller was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1964. Weller was made professor emeritus in 1984.

Weller died on August 23, 2008.


McIntosh, Kenneth; "Thomas H. Weller:1915-2008"; National Academy Press; 2011

Roache, Christina; "Thomas H. Weller, Nobel Laureate, Professor Emeritus, Dies"; Harvard School of Public Health press releases; August 26, 2008

Thomas Weller Nobel Biography

Thomas Weller Wikipedia Entry