1873 in science
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- Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff and Joseph Achille Le Bel, working independently, develop a model of chemical bonding that explains the chirality experiments of Pasteur and provides a physical cause for optical activity in chiral compounds.
- August 7 – Amalie Dietrich arrives in Australia to begin a decade of collecting specimens in natural history and anthropology
- The Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition discovers Franz-Josef Land
- Charles Hermite proves that the mathematical constant e is a transcendental number
- Henri Brocard introduces the Brocard points, Brocard triangle and Brocard circle
- September 15 – agreement for establishment of the International Meteorological Organization
- February 20 – English electrical engineer Willoughby Smith publishes his discovery of the photoconductivity of the element selenium
- June 14 – Johannes Diderik van der Waals defends his thesis, Over de Continuiteit van den Gas en Vloeistoftoestand (On the continuity of the gaseous and liquid state) at Leiden University. In this, he introduces the concepts of molecular volume and molecular attraction; gives a semi-quantitative description of the phenomena of condensation and critical temperatures; and derives the van der Waals equation.
- September 22 – James Clerk Maxwell delivers a discourse on molecules to the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Bradford
- James Clerk Maxwell's A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism first presents the partial differential equations known as Maxwell's equations which form the foundation of classical electrodynamics, optics, and electric circuits
- Frederick Guthrie is the first to report observing thermionic emission
Physiology and medicine
- June 18 – Alice Vickery passes the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's examination, becoming the first qualified female pharmacist in the United Kingdom
- Mycobacterium leprae, the causative agent of leprosy, is discovered by Norwegian physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen. It is the first bacterium to be identified as pathogenic in humans.
- May 20 – Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss receive United States patent#139121 for using copper rivets to strengthen the pockets of denim jeans
- Carl von Linde installs his first commercial refrigeration system, built by Maschinenfabrik Augsburg for the Spaten Brewery and using dimethyl ether as the refrigerant
- Christopher Miner Spencer introduces the fully automatic turret lathe
- February 11 – Louis Charles Christopher Krieger (died 1940), American mycologist
- February 12 – Barnum Brown (died 1963), American paleontologist
- March 5 – Thomas Harrison Montgomery, Jr. (died 1912), American zoologist and cell biologist
- April 25 – Félix d'Herelle (died 1949), French-Canadian microbiologist, a co-discoverer of bacteriophages
- June 28 – Alexis Carrel (died 1942), French surgeon, biologist and winner of a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
- June 30 – Friedrich Karl Georg Fedde (died 1942), German botanist
- July 7 – Sándor Ferenczi (died 1933), Hungarian psychoanalyst
- October 4 – Dimitrie Pompeiu (died 1954), Romanian mathematician
- October 9 – Karl Schwarzschild (died 1916), German astronomer and physicist
- January 27 – Adam Sedgwick (born 1785), English geologist
- February 1 – Matthew Fontaine Maury (born 1806), American oceanographer
- April 18 – Justus von Liebig (born 1803), German chemist
- March 10 – John Torrey (born 1796), American botanist
- March 30 – Bénédict Morel (born 1809), French psychiatrist
- September 15 – Alexei Fedchenko (born 1844), Russian naturalist
- October 17 – Robert McClure (born 1807), British Arctic explorer
- December 14 – Louis Agassiz (born 1807), Swiss-American zoologist and geologist
- "Jacobus Henricus van't Hoff". Science History Institute. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
- Bowden, Mary Ellen (1997). "Jacobus Henricus van't Hoff". Chemical achievers : the human face of the chemical sciences. Philadelphia, PA: Chemical Heritage Foundation. pp. 94–95. ISBN 9780941901123.
- Crilly, Tony (2007). 50 Mathematical Ideas you really need to know. London: Quercus. ISBN 978-1-84724-008-8.
- "Etudes d'un nouveau cercle du plan du triangle". Paper to l'Association française pour l'avancement des sciences.
- Guggenbuhl, Laura (December 1953). "Henri Brocard and the Geometry of the Triangle". The Mathematical Gazette. London: Mathematical Association. 37 (322): 241–243. JSTOR 3610034.
- "Effect of Light on Selenium During the Passage of an Electric Current". Nature. 7 (173): 303. 1873. Bibcode:1873Natur...7R.303.. doi:10.1038/007303e0.
- Clerk-Maxwell, J. (1874). "Van der Waals on the Continuity of the Gaseous and Liquid States" (PDF). Nature. 10 (259): 477–480. Bibcode:1874Natur..10..477C. doi:10.1038/010477a0. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- Clerk-Maxwell, J. (25 September 1873). "Molecules" (PDF). Nature. 8 (204): 437–41. Bibcode:1873Natur...8..437.. doi:10.1038/008437a0. Retrieved 2012-02-20. Also digitised at The Victorian Web. Archived 2012-02-23.
- Richardson, Owen (1921). The emission of positive ions by hot metals. ISBN 978-1-929148-10-3. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- "Alice Vickery". www.rpharms.com. Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
- Hansen, G. H. A. (1874). "Undersøgelser Angående Spedalskhedens Årsager" [Investigations concerning the etiology of leprosy]. Norsk Mag. Laegervidenskaben (in Norwegian). 4: 1–88.
- Irgens, L. (2002). "The discovery of the leprosy bacillus". Tidsskr. nor Laegeforen. 122 (7): 708–9. PMID 11998735.
- Rolt, L. T. C. (1965). A Short History of Machine Tools. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. p. 169.