Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted

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Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted
Johannes Brønsted.jpg
Portrait of Johannes Brønsted
Born (1879-02-22)22 February 1879
Varde, Denmark
Died 17 December 1947(1947-12-17) (aged 68)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Residence Copenhagen, Denmark
Nationality Danish
Alma mater University of Copenhagen
Known for Brønsted-Lowry acid-base theory
Brønsted catalysis equation
Scientific career
Fields Physical chemistry
Institutions University of Copenhagen

Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted (Danish: [joˈhanˀəs ˈneɡolɑwˀs ˈbʁɶnsdɛð]; 22 February 1879 – 17 December 1947) born in Varde, was a Danish physical chemist.[1][2][3] He earned a degree in chemical engineering in 1899 and his Ph.D. in 1908 from the University of Copenhagen and was immediately thereafter appointed professor of inorganic and physical chemistry at the same university.[4]

In 1906 he published the first of his many papers on electron affinity,[4] and, simultaneously with the English chemist Thomas Martin Lowry, he introduced the protonic theory of acid-base reactions in 1923.[5][6] That same year, Gilbert N. Lewis proposed an electronic theory of acid-base reactions, but both theories remain commonly used.[4]

He became known as an authority on catalysis by acids and bases and was the namesake of the Brønsted catalysis equation. Working with Lowry[citation needed], he also developed the often-used theory of proton donation, theorizing that a hydrogen atom (which is always found in an acid) ionizes into hydronium upon dissolving in water, thereby losing its electron and becoming a proton donor, and that hydroxide (a water molecule stripped of one of its two hydrogen atoms) is a proton receiver. Mixing the two causes a neutralization reaction wherein hydronium and hydroxide combine, creating hydrogen hydroxide, a compound otherwise known as water. The pH scale may be interpreted as "power of hydrogen", and the definition is based on the work of Brønsted and Lowry.[4]

In World War II, Brønsted's opposition to the Nazis led to his election to the Danish parliament in 1947, but he was too ill to take his seat and died shortly after the election.[4]


  1. ^ "Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 28, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted". Chemistry Explained. Retrieved March 28, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted". Volny. 
  4. ^ a b c d e
  5. ^ J. N. Brönsted (1923) "Einige Bemerkungen über den Begriff der Säuren und Basen" (Some observations about the concept of acids and bases), Recueil des Travaux Chimiques des Pays-Bas, 42 (8) : 718-728.
  6. ^ T. M. Lowry (1923) "The uniqueness of hydrogen," Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry, 42 (3) : 43-47.