Paul Walden - Inorganic Chemists, Birthday and Childhood

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Paul Walden's Personal Details

Paul Walden was a Latvian-German chemist who is known for his path-breaking invention known as Walden inversion

InformationDetail
BirthdayJuly 26, 1863
Died onJanuary 22, 1957
NationalityGerman, Latvian
FamousScientists, Chemists, Inorganic Chemists, Physical Chemists
Universities
  • Leipzig University
  • Riga Technical University
Discoveries / Inventions
  • Walden Inversion
  • Ethylammonium Nitrate
Birth PlaceCēsis
Born CountryLatvia
GenderMale
Sun SignLeo
Born inCēsis
Famous asChemist
Died at Age93

// Famous Chemists

Paul Walden's photo

Who is Paul Walden?

Paul Walden was Latvian-German scientist. His work in stereochemistry and the history of chemistry lead to multiple breakthroughs in the field of chemistry. Perhaps most notably, his name is remembered through the “Walden inversion”, a stereochemical reaction that he invented. He is also well-known for having synthesized an ionic liquid at room temperature, achieving the feat with ethylammonium nitrate. Walden worked as chemistry professor at various European universities, where he was highly lauded for his skills as a lecturer as well as for his breakthroughs in the laboratory. Living and working in early-20th century Europe, some of Walden’s activities were interrupted during the two World Wars. While he was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1913 and 1914, the First World War interrupted that period of his work as well as the recognitions. Nonetheless, he lived a long life, lecturing and working until his final years. Today, his work is regularly commemorated by the scientific community and particularly in Latvia, where he was born and spent many of his busiest years. Given the importance of the Walden Inversion, he is often referred to as the founder of physical organic chemistry.

// Famous Physical Chemists

Childhood & Early Life

He was born on 26 July 1863 in Rozula, within what is now the Paraguja municipality of Latvia, to a large family of peasants.

When he was only four years old, both of his parents died, leaving him in the care of his twelve older siblings. Two of his older brothers, who were working in Riga, supported Walden through childhood and paid for him to attend boarding school and eventually attend university.

In 1882, Walden completed his school education; having attended a general high school in the town of Cesis and a technical high school in Riga.

Career

Walden’s academic life began in December 1882, when he enrolled in Riga Technical University and began focusing his studies on chemistry.

In 1886, he published his first scientific study, which focused on the reactions of nitric and nitrous acid together with various reagents. He analyzed the colors of these reactions and established the limits of sensitivity of the color method for detecting nitric acid.

In April 1887, still in university, he was appointed as a member of the Russian Physico-Chemical Society.

In the same year, Walden began collaborating with Wilhelm Ostwald, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist and mentor to Walden. Together, the two published a joint work in that year, which assessed how molecular weight determined the electrical conductivity of aqueous solutions of salts.

In 1888, having already published papers of his own and jointly with Ostwald, Walden graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from Riga Technical University. He remained at the same university, now as an assistant to professor C. Bischof.

Between 1888 and 1889, he compiled the “Handbook of Stereochemistry”, a resource that comprised the results of dozens of chemical syntheses and characterizations.

In 1890 and 1891, he visited Ostwald at the University of Leipzig and there defended his master thesis, which focused on the affinity values of some particular organic acids. Walden turned down an offer to continue at Leipzig as a lecturer, instead returning to Riga.

In 1892, he was appointed as an assistant professor of physical chemistry at the Riga Technical University, defending his doctorate within one year of the appointment.

In 1894, he became a full professor at Riga Technical University, teaching analytical and physical chemistry.

In 1895, just one year into his professorship, Walden discovered the Walden Inversion, which demonstrated that using certain exchange reactions, it is possible to obtain different stereoisomers from the same compound. This breakthrough would endure as Walden’s most renowned accomplishment throughout his life.

In 1896, the Riga Technical University underwent widespread reforms and Walden was responsible for reorganizing the Chemistry Department, which he accomplished in collaboration with Ostwald, who sent suggestions from the University of Leipzig.

In 1911, Walden was invited by Mikhail Lomonosov to serve as a leading member of the Chemical Laboratories of the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences, a post he held until 1919.

In response to political unrest in Russia and Latvia, Walden stepped back from research to focus on teaching and administrative work, first in Latvia and then in Germany, where he served as a professor of inorganic chemistry at the University of Rostock. He served in this position till 1934.

In 1924, he was invited back to Riga for a series of lectures and was offered teaching positions both in Riga and St. Petersburg, which he declined.

In 1942, the British bombing of Rostock destroyed a library of the history of chemistry that Walden had assembled, which included over 10,000 volumes.

Major Works

He is known for his path-breaking invention, known as Walden Inversion, which demonstrated that using certain exchange reactions, it is possible to obtain different stereoisomers from the same compound.

He synthesized the first room-temperature ionic liquid, ethyl ammonium nitrate.

Awards & Achievements

In 1913 and 1914, Walden was nominated as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Personal Life & Legacy

After the British bombing of Rostock, Walden and his wife were left homeless. They traveled throughout Germany until Walden got the job of lecturer in Gammertingen, where he taught into his 80s.

Due to the post-war division of Germany into four parts, he was unable to collect his pension; this situation forced him to continue lecturing until the end of his life.

Walden died on 22 January 1957, at the age of 93, in Gammertingen, West Germany.

Since 1988, the Paul Walden medal is awarded every three years by Riga Technical University for exceptional work in Chemistry and Science History.

Since 2006, the Latvian Chemical Society has held an annual Paul Walden Symposium for chemists to engage and exchange ideas, in the tradition of Walden’s contributions of the field.

Trivia

Aside from his accomplishments in chemistry, Walden was prized as an exceptional lecturer. In his own memoirs, he explained that “the feedback of sympathetic listeners gave me strength… I never considered teaching as a burden.”

When asked about his nationality, which was alternately described as Latvian, Russian or German, Walden is reported to have once said, “I’m a chemist.”

// Famous Scientists

Paul Walden biography timelines

  • // 26th Jul 1863
    He was born on 26 July 1863 in Rozula, within what is now the Paraguja municipality of Latvia, to a large family of peasants.
  • // 1882
    In 1882, Walden completed his school education; having attended a general high school in the town of Cesis and a technical high school in Riga.
  • // Dec 1882
    Walden’s academic life began in December 1882, when he enrolled in Riga Technical University and began focusing his studies on chemistry.
  • // 1886
    In 1886, he published his first scientific study, which focused on the reactions of nitric and nitrous acid together with various reagents. He analyzed the colors of these reactions and established the limits of sensitivity of the color method for detecting nitric acid.
  • // Apr 1887
    In April 1887, still in university, he was appointed as a member of the Russian Physico-Chemical Society.
  • // 1888
    In 1888, having already published papers of his own and jointly with Ostwald, Walden graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from Riga Technical University. He remained at the same university, now as an assistant to professor C. Bischof.
  • // 1888 To 1889
    Between 1888 and 1889, he compiled the “Handbook of Stereochemistry”, a resource that comprised the results of dozens of chemical syntheses and characterizations.
  • // 1890 To 1891
    In 1890 and 1891, he visited Ostwald at the University of Leipzig and there defended his master thesis, which focused on the affinity values of some particular organic acids. Walden turned down an offer to continue at Leipzig as a lecturer, instead returning to Riga.
  • // 1892
    In 1892, he was appointed as an assistant professor of physical chemistry at the Riga Technical University, defending his doctorate within one year of the appointment.
  • // 1894
    In 1894, he became a full professor at Riga Technical University, teaching analytical and physical chemistry.
  • // 1895
    In 1895, just one year into his professorship, Walden discovered the Walden Inversion, which demonstrated that using certain exchange reactions, it is possible to obtain different stereoisomers from the same compound. This breakthrough would endure as Walden’s most renowned accomplishment throughout his life.
  • // 1896
    In 1896, the Riga Technical University underwent widespread reforms and Walden was responsible for reorganizing the Chemistry Department, which he accomplished in collaboration with Ostwald, who sent suggestions from the University of Leipzig.
  • // 1911 To 1919
    In 1911, Walden was invited by Mikhail Lomonosov to serve as a leading member of the Chemical Laboratories of the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences, a post he held until 1919.
  • // 1924
    In 1924, he was invited back to Riga for a series of lectures and was offered teaching positions both in Riga and St. Petersburg, which he declined.
  • // 1942
    In 1942, the British bombing of Rostock destroyed a library of the history of chemistry that Walden had assembled, which included over 10,000 volumes.
  • // 22nd Jan 1957
    Walden died on 22 January 1957, at the age of 93, in Gammertingen, West Germany.

// Famous Inorganic Chemists

Paul Walden's FAQ

  • What is Paul Walden birthday?

    Paul Walden was born at 1863-07-26

  • When was Paul Walden died?

    Paul Walden was died at 1957-01-22

  • Where was Paul Walden died?

    Paul Walden was died in Gammertingen

  • Which age was Paul Walden died?

    Paul Walden was died at age 93

  • Where is Paul Walden's birth place?

    Paul Walden was born in Cēsis

  • What is Paul Walden nationalities?

    Paul Walden's nationalities is German,Latvian

  • What was Paul Walden universities?

    Paul Walden studied at Leipzig University, Riga Technical University

  • What is Paul Walden's inventions/discoveries?

    Walden Inversion, Ethylammonium Nitrate was invented (or discovered) by Paul Walden

  • What is Paul Walden's sun sign?

    Paul Walden is Leo

  • How famous is Paul Walden?

    Paul Walden is famouse as Chemist