Gilbert Newton Lewis

The American chemist Gilbert Newton Lewis, b. West Newton, Mass., Oct. 25, 1875, d. Mar. 23, 1946, contributed to the study of thermodynamics, atomic structure, and bonding, as well as to the theory of acids and bases. Lewis's work in thermodynamics led him to confirm the third law of thermodynamics. His atomic model (known as the Lewis-Langmuir octet) and his distinction between ionic and covalent bonds marked great progress in understanding chemical bonding. His acid-base concept, which asserted that a base donates an electron pair and an acid accepts the pair in covalent bonding, superseded the Bronsted-Lowry theory. The importance of thermodynamics in chemistry was stressed in his then-universally accepted textbook Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances (1923), coauthored by Merle Randall.

Last modified on: Monday, October 20, 1997.