Brown Bag Lecture: Ida Noddack and the Universal Function of Matter

Brown Bag Lecture icon
Date: October 1, 2013
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Gildo M. dos Santos

Ida Noddack was a German chemist who, with her husband, Walter Noddack, discovered in 1925 element 75 (rhenium) and possibly also element 43 (technetium). She  is also known to have anticipated the possibility of nuclear fission in 1934. Noddack faced many challenges because of her scientific nonconformity, her gender, the  overall strangling of research under the Nazi regime, and resentment from physicists.

Dos Santos’s talk will focus on Ida’s hypothesis about the distribution of matter in the universe. Ida and her husband  undertook the chemical analysis of meteorites, out of which Ida concluded that all elements are present in just any mineral. The minimal concentration at which a given element is present in any mineral was called by Ida the “universal mineral concentration.” Ida related the relative abundance of the elements in the universe to some property of the atomic nuclei. This allowed her to conjecture about new and unexpected properties of periodicity in the table of elements. She and her husband also imagined that the relative concentrations of the elements had considerably changed during the history of the universe and, more specifically, during Earth’s geological eras.  

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

For more information, please call 215.873.8289 or e-mail

Register for an event link

Need Meeting Space?

CHF’s state-of-the-art conference center is in Philadelphia’s beautiful historic district.

Brown Bag Lecture Series

Enjoy a bring-your-own brown-bag lunch while listening to CHF scholars share their research.

Fellowships at CHF

CHF’s scholars, who spend anywhere from one to nine months in residence, form a vital part of CHF’s intellectual life.

Support CHF

Help us preserve and share the history of chemistry and related sciences. Make a tax-deductible tax-deductible gift online.