Irving Langmuir


Irving Langmuir

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Irving Langmuir
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1932

Born: 31 January 1881, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Died: 16 August 1957, Falmouth, MA, USA

Affiliation at the time of the award: General Electric Company, Schenectady, NY, USA

Prize motivation: “for his discoveries and investigations in surface chemistry”

Prize share: 1/1


Chemical reactions often take place more easily next to surfaces where substances in different phases, such as solids and gases, come in contact. In studies of incandescent light bulbs with rarefied hydrogen gas, Irving Langmuir discovered that a layer of hydrogen atoms only one atom thick formed on the inside of the incandescent light bulb. Further studies of oil films and other materials led him in 1917 to a theory postulating that surfaces resemble a chessboard on which every square can be occupied by only one atom or molecule. As a result, atoms or molecules that wind up next to each other can more easily react with one another.

To cite this section
MLA style: Irving Langmuir – Facts. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2023. Sun. 10 Dec 2023. <>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Streams during Nobel Week

Watch the 2023 Nobel Prize lectures, the Nobel Prize Concert, Nobel Week Dialogue, the prize award ceremonies in Oslo and Stockholm and Nobel Peace Prize Forum here at
Watch lectures and award ceremonies

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.