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Irving Langmuir

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Irving Langmuir: Biography

Born: 31 January 1881

Died: 17 August 1957


Irving Langmuir was born on 31 January 1881 in Brooklyn, New York. His father was employed by an insurance company and that work took the family to Paris, Philadelphia and New York. After graduating from a technical high school, Langmuir earned his BS is Metallurgical engineering from Columbia School of Mines in 1903. He then went on to Germany, where he earned his PhD from the University of Gottingen in 1906. Afterward he spent three years teaching at Stevens Institute of technology in New Jersey, where he was often frustrated both by his limited salary and by the fact that that teaching demands kept him from research.


Dr. Langmuir was happier after he moved to the General Electric Research Laboratory, where he worked from 1909 until his retirement in 1950. Langmuir combined physics, chemistry and engineering in a fruitful way. Throughout the course of the career, his work showed itself to have both theoretical and practical value. Langmuir was considered a pioneer in the field of electronics and helped modernize vacuum tube engineering. He improved pressure gauges, invented a gas-filled tungsten lamp and developed an atomic welding process. His engineering skills were utilized by the military during World War II. More controversially, Langmuir also was involved in experiments with cloud seeding.


Dr. Langmuir held numerous patents and contributed to journals. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society, and member of the National Academy of Sciences and American Chemical Society. He was a fellow of the IRE and its president in 1923. He received many honorary doctorates, the Franklin medal in 1934, the Faraday medal in 1943, and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1932.


Dr. Langmuir was married to Marion Mersereau and the couple raised a son and a daughter. Langmuir enjoyed outdoor pursuits such as skiing and mountain climbing. He died in massachusetts on 17 August 1957.


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