• Alfred Werner won the Chemistry Nobel Prize for the year 1913 for proposing the octahedral configuration of transition metal complexes. Werner developed the basis for modern coordination chemistry. He was the first inorganic chemist to win the Nobel Prize, and the only one prior to 1973.
  • Alfred Werner revolutionized the fields of inorganic chemistry and stereochemistry. His work has found applications in many fields such as organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, biochemistry, geochemistry, and mineralogy, and thus he demonstrated that stereochemistry is not limited to organic chemistry but is a general phenomenon.
  • Werner is often called the “founder of coordination chemistry”. He also finds a place in the history of the periodic table. In 1905, he separated the lanthanide elements [atomic numbers 58 -71] from others and reorganized the table which is used even today.
  • Alfred Werner was born on December 12,1866 in Alsace, France. He was the fourth and last child of Jean-Adam Werner and Salomé Jeanette. His father worked as a foundry worker and was a former locksmith whereas his mother hailed from a wealthy family. In 1894, Alfred Werner married Emma Gieskerand and became a naturalized Swiss citizen thereafter. A son, Alfred and a daughter, Charlotte were born to them.
  • From 1885 until 1886, Werner did his military service in Karlsruhe. Werner was a very sociable man, whose recreations were billiards, chess and the Swiss card game, Jass. He spent his holidays among the mountains and travelled much to attend scientific meetings outside Switzerland. As a lecturer he was a convincing and enthusiastic speaker with a gift for clear explanations of difficult problems.
  • The year 1913 is memorable as Rabindranath Tagore became the first Indian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature and Alfred Werner became the first Swiss chemist to win Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
  • Alfred Werner died on November 15, 1919 at the age of 52 in Zurich, Switzerland.

Contributed by Dr K Shiva Shanker, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad