• Henri Moissan was born on 28th September 1852 in Paris, France.
  • Henri Moissan is the first French Chemist who won the Noble Prize. Moissan was one of the original members of the International Atomic Weights Committee. At the time of receiving the award he was working at Sorbonne University, Paris, France.
  • Moissan won the Chemistry Nobel Prize of 1906 for the great services rendered by him in his investigation and isolation of the element Fluorine, and for the adoption in the service of science of the electric furnace called after him.
  • Henri Moissan’s research interests were in inorganic chemistry and nuclear chemistry. But initially he worked on the interchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the leaves of plants. He then left the biology research and pursued inorganic chemistry and worked on the oxides of iron-group metals and chromium. In 1884 he turned his attention to Fluorine chemistry, preparing some organic and phosphorus derivatives of Fluorine. The next year,  he discovered that solutions of potassium fluoride in hydrogen fluoride at certain strengths remained liquid and conducted electrolytically at sub-zero temperatures;  a year later he successfully electrolysed these solutions to isolate Fluorine for the first time. He made a full study of the properties of the gas and its reactions with other elements. In 1886, Moissan was successful in developing an apparatus for producing a stream of gas consisting of the sought-after element - Fluoride. It is interesting to know that even today, Fluorine is still synthesized electrochemically using the principle elaborated by Moissan.
  • Henri Moissan is also well known for developing a furnace in which an electric arc which was used as a source of heat. In this furnace Henri Moissan managed to synthesize microscopic diamonds and other materials.
  • He is credited with over 300 publications and he is known to be an excellent lecturer and a meticulous and patient experimentalist.
  • Moissan died on February 20, 1907 suffering from acute appendicitis just two months after receiving his Nobel Prize.

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