• Walther Hermann Nernst received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1921. During the selection process in 1920, the Nobel Committee for Chemistry decided that none of the year's nominations met the criteria as outlined in the will of Alfred Nobel. According to the Nobel Foundation's statutes, the Nobel Prize can in such a case be reserved until the following year, and this statute was then applied. Walther Nernst therefore received his Nobel Prize for 1920 one year later, in 1921. He received the Nobel Prize in recognition of his work in Thermochemistry. He had established what he referred to as his "New Heat Theorem" which was later known as the “Third law of Thermodynamics.
  • Nernst attended the Universities of Zürich, Berlin and Graz, studying physics and mathematics. He received his PhD in 1887 on electromotive forces produced by magnetism sin heated metal plates.
  • Nernst later joined Wilhelm Ostwald at Leipzig University, where he got a wonderful company of distinguished chemists like van't Hoff and Arrhenius that helped him to conduct important research. His 3rd Law of Thermodynamics demonstrated that the maximum work obtainable from a process could be calculated from the heat evolved at temperatures close to absolute zero. In addition to its theoretical implications, the theorem was soon applied to industrial problems, including calculations in ammonia synthesis.
  • During his active research work for the development of the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics, Nernst was influenced with the work of Einstein's on the quantum mechanics of specific heats at cryogenic temperatures. He travelled all the way to Zurich to visit him in person. Nernst was mechanically minded and used to think of ways to apply new discoveries to industry. Nernst's hobbies included hunting and fishing.
  • Walther Hermann Nernst was born on 25 June 1864 in Wąbrzeźno (then known as Briesen), Poland. Walther’s father, Gustav Nernst, was a country judge. His mother’s name was Ottilie (Nerger) Nernst. He was born fourth of his parents’ five children.  In 1892, Walther Nernst married Emma Lohmeyer. Nernst died on 8th November, 1941 at the age of 77 in Zibelle, Germany (now in Poland).
  • Nernst has many inventions to his credit. He invented Nernst Lamp which had industrial potential. He had also invented an electric piano. Apart from the Third Law of Thermodynamics, he is remembered for Nernst equation (he has derived this during his twenties), Nernst effect, Nernst potential, Nernst-Planck equation, Nernst lamp, Nernst glower etc.

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