2015 Joseph F. Mulligan Memorial Lecture

Presented by Prof. Laszlo Takacs, Dept. of Physics, UMBC


Physics : 401

Date & Time

April 29, 2015, 3:30 pm4:30 pm


TITLE: M. Carey Lea, the Father of Mechanochemistry

ABSTRACT: Most chemical reactions are induced by heat in liquids or gases. But chemical changes can also be affected by mechanical action on solids, e.g. between sliding surfaces or by grinding in a ball mill. Occasionally, such mechanochemical reactions proceed differently from their thermochemical counterparts. The first experiments that clearly set aside mechanochemical reactions from thermochemistry were carried out by Matthew Carey Lea in Philadelphia, at the end of the 19th century. His results are still frequently cited. 

Lea came from an influential Quaker-Irish family and his scientific career was quite unusual. He worked as a “gentleman scientist” in his private laboratory and he was almost 70 years old when he performed his well-known experiments on the decomposition of silver and mercury halides. The lecture will describe the life and work of M.C. Lea. I will also talk about how I became interested in this unique man and how my search for details and clarifications took me to original sources at some very special places.