Svante August Arrhenius (1859–1927) was one of the most accomplished scientists of his time. A founder of physical chemistry, he contributed to such diverse fields as meteorology, geophysics, physiology, and cosmology. In 1896, he was the first to predict global warming as a consequence of human carbon dioxide emissions. His early dissertation work on the theory of ionic dissociation, however, was met with skepticism. Many scientists of his time just could not imagine that the intimate bond between, say, sodium and chlorine in table salt could simply fall apart in water, and that all those chlorine atoms would not reveal themselves through their characteristic smell.

A travel grant from the Swedish Academy of Sciences gave Arrhenius the opportunity to discuss his ideas with such great minds as Walther Nernst and Ludwig Boltzmann, shown in figure 1, Jacobus van’t Hoff, and Wilhelm Ostwald. His groundbreaking work on the electrolytic theory...

You do not currently have access to this content.