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Irving Langmuir
1881 - 1957

Atomic Theorist, Cloud Seeder,
Radar Developer, Nobel Prize Winner

It would be difficult to list all of the scientific discoveries of Irving Langmuir. They include work that resulted in the development of many commercial electrical products. He also added much to scientific advancement and military innovation resulting from World War II. ■ Langmuir was born January 31, 1881, in Brooklyn, New York, of Scottish ancestry. He was educated in New York schools and was graduated from the Columbia University School of Mines in 1903 with a degree in metallurgical engineering. ■ He took his Ph.D. degree in chemistry at the University of Goettingen, Germany, in 1906. He taught for a short time before joining the staff of General Electric at Schenectady, New York. ■ He remained at the General Electric Company until his retirement in 1950. He developed the nitrogen-argon incandescent lamp (1913), submarine detector (1917), hydrogen welding torch (1920), the high vacuum tube which made modern radio broadcasting possible, and the high vacuum mercury pump. ■ He experimented with oil films on water from which he derived atomic theory. For this and other work he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1932. During World War II he was a key adviser in national defense and wartime scientific research programs. ■ Langmuir joined the British in developing radar, which proved effective in waging World War II. In 1947 in collaboration with Vincent Schaefer, he developed a method of seeding clouds with dry ice to induce rainfall. ■ On the side, Langmuir liked to pilot his own plane and climb mountains. He used his plane to observe a solar eclipse at an altitude of 9,000 feet. He was the author of Phenomena, Atoms, and Molecules. He died at Falmouth, Massachusetts, on August 16, 1957.
 

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546

2014