Henry Eyring (chemist)

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Henry Eyring
Henry Eyring in 1951
Born (1901-02-20)February 20, 1901
Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Chemistry
Institutions Princeton University
University of Utah
Alma mater University of Arizona
University of California, Berkeley
Doctoral students Keith J. Laidler
J O Hirschfelder
Walter Kauzmann
Known for Transition state theory
Notable awards Wolf Prize in Chemistry (1980)
Priestley Medal (1975)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1969)
Irving Langmuir Award (1968)
National Medal of Science (1966)
Peter Debye Award (1964)
Newcomb Cleveland Prize (1932)
Spouse Mildred Bennion
Children 3
He is the father of Henry B. Eyring.

Henry Eyring (February 20, 1901 – December 26, 1981) was a Mexican-born American theoretical chemist whose primary contribution was in the study of chemical reaction rates and intermediates.

A prolific writer, he authored more than 600 scientific articles, ten scientific books, and a few books on the subject of science and religion. He received the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 1980 and the National Medal of Science in 1966 for developing the Absolute Rate Theory or Transition state theory of chemical reactions, one of the most important developments of 20th-century chemistry. Several other chemists later received the Nobel Prize for work based on it, and his failure to receive the Nobel was a matter of surprise to many.[1] The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences apparently did not understand Eyring's theory until it was too late to award him the Nobel; the academy awarded him the Berzelius Medal in 1977 as partial compensation.[2] Sterling M. McMurrin believed Eyring should have received the Nobel Prize but was not awarded it because of his religion.[3]

Eyring was elected president of the American Chemical Society in 1963 and the Association for the Advancement of Science in 1965.


Eyring, a third-generation Mormon, was reared on a cattle ranch in Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, a Mormon colony, for the first 11 years of his life. In July 1912, the Eyrings and about 4,200 other immigrants were driven out of Mexico by violent insurgents during the Mexican Revolution and moved to El Paso, Texas. After living in El Paso for approximately one year, the Eyrings relocated to Pima, Arizona, where Eyring completed high school and showed a special aptitude for mathematics and science. He also studied at Gila Academy in Thatcher, Arizona, now Eastern Arizona College. One of the pillars at the front of the main building still bears his name, along with that of his brother-in-law, Spencer W. Kimball, later president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).

By 1919, Eyring had received a state fellowship to the University of Arizona, where he received degrees in mining engineering, metallurgy, and chemistry. He subsequently pursued and received his doctoral degree in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1927 for a thesis entitled: A Comparison of the Ionization by, and Stopping Power for, Alpha Particles of Elements and Compounds.

After a review of his dissertation, Princeton University recruited Eyring as an instructor in 1931. He would continue his work at Princeton until 1946[4] when he was offered a position as dean of the graduate school at the University of Utah. The chemistry building on the University of Utah campus is now named in his honor.

Eyring married Mildred Bennion. She was a native of Granger, Utah, who had a degree from the University of Utah and served as head of the physical education department there. She met Eyring while pursuing a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin.[5] They had three sons together. The oldest, Edward M. "Ted" Eyring is an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Utah. Henry B. Eyring is a general authority of the LDS Church. Harden B. Eyring is a higher education administrator for the State of Utah.

Religious beliefs

Eyring was a member of the LDS Church throughout his life. His views of science and religion were captured in this quote: "Is there any conflict between science and religion? There is no conflict in the mind of God, but often there is conflict in the minds of men."[6] Eyring also feared overeager defenders of faith would discard new scientific findings because of apparent contradictions. He encouraged parents and teachers to distinguish between "what they know to be true and what they think may be true," to avoid clumping them together and "throwing the baby out with the bath."[7]:245–247

As a member of the LDS Church, Eyring served as a branch president, district president, and, for over twenty years, a member of the general board of the Deseret Sunday School Union. His son Henry B. Eyring is currently an apostle and member of the First Presidency of the church.


Scientific publications: books

Henry Eyring authored, co-authored, or edited the following books or journals:

  • A generalized theory of plasticity involving the virial theorem
  • The activated complex in chemisorption and catalysis
  • An examination into the origin, possible synthesis, and physical properties of diamonds
  • Annual Review of Physical Chemistry
  • Basic chemical kinetics
  • Deformation Kinetics with Alexander Stephen Krausz
  • Electrochemistry
  • Kinetic evidence of phase structure
  • Modern Chemical Kinetics
  • Non-classical reaction kinetics
  • Physical Chemistry, an Advanced Treatise (1970)
  • Quantum Chemistry
  • Reactions in condensed phases
  • The significance of isotopic reactions in rate theory
  • Significant Liquid Structures
  • Some aspects of catalytic hydrogenation
  • Statistical Mechanics
  • Statistical Mechanics and Dynamics
  • Theoretical Chemistry: Advances and Perspectives. Volume 2
  • The Theory of Rate Processes in Biology and Medicine with Frank H. Johnson and Betsy Jones Stover
  • Theory of Optical Activity (Monographs on Chemistry series) with D.J. Caldwell
  • Time and Change
  • Valency

Religious publications: books

See also


  1. G.B. Kauffman; The Nobel Centennial 1901—2001; Chem. Educator 2001, 6, 370—384
  2. "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry: The Development of Modern Chemistry". Nobelprize.org. Retrieved 12 Jun 2010.
  3. "Matters of Conscience: Conversations With Sterling M. McMurrin on Philosophy, Education, and Religion" by Sterling M. McMurrin & L. Jackson Newell, Signature Books, 1996
  4. AAAS - The World's Largest General Scientific Society
  5. Gerald N. Lund,"Elder Henry B. Eyring: Molded by Defining Influences", Ensign, September 1995.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
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External links