Born: 25 December 1904, Hamburg, Germany
Died: 3 March 1999, Ottawa, Canada
Affiliation at the time of the award: National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
Prize motivation: "for his contributions to the knowledge of electronic structure and geometry of molecules, particularly free radicals"
Field: molecular structures, physical chemistry
Prize share: 1/1
Our world consists of atoms that are assembled in molecules. During many chemical reactions, molecules are broken down into smaller parts, free radicals, that are quickly combined with other parts and form new molecules. Molecules absorb light of fixed wavelengths, and these light spectrums can be used with quantum mechanical calculations to figure out how different molecules are constructed. Gerhard Herzberg developed these methods, and during the 1950s and 1960s he mapped out the chemical structure of a great many free radicals.