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Irving Langmuir Biography

Irving Langmuir
1881 – 1957
Nobel Laureate: 1932

[Photo of younger Irving Langmuir.] [Photo of Irving Langmuir with Nobel Prize.]

Langmuir Laboratory is named in honor of a man whose scientific and technical activities spanned many fields. his first degree was that of Metallurgical Engineer, awarded by the Columbia University School of Mines in 1903. He studied at Göttingen University in Germany under Professor Walther Nernst and, in 1906, published his doctoral thesis entitled “On the Partial Recombination of Dissociated Gases During Cooling.” Upon receipt of his Ph.D. degree, Irving Langmuir returned to the U.S. to continue his research and to teach chemistry at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ.

In 1909, he was invited to join the new research laboratory of the General Electric Company where he worked as a research scientist, as associate director, and as a consultant until his death in 1957. In his research there he made significant contributions to many fields: low pressure phenomena, heat transfer, incandescent lamps, thermionic phenomena, electrical discharges, plasmas and their oscillations, the atomic and molecular structure of matter, proteins, surface phenomena, filtration, aviation, atmospheric phenomena, the botfly, nucleation of ice in clouds, and rain formation. For these contributions, he received the Nichols and Gibbs Medals of the American Chemical Society, the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society of London, the Rumford Medal, the Faraday Medal, the Nobel Prize, and many other awards.


In 1975, Kenneth Langmuir, son of Irving and Marian Langmuir, generously bequeathed the residue of his estate to the Irving Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research. The bequest is used for the support of the Laboratory, for Langmuir Fellowships at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and for an annual research award.


To encourage emulations of Dr. Langmuir’s vigorous approach to research at an Institute where the fields of study span many of his own, the Langmuir Award for Excellence in Research has been established as an annual event by the Institute committee operating Langmuir Laboratory. It is awarded for an outstanding scientific research paper that has been submitted to or published by a recognized journal during the preceding year by any student or graduate of New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

Names and the accomplishments of worthy candidates for the award should be brought to the attention of the Institute committee at least four weeks before the annual spring Commencement Exercise.


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