Henry Eyring

National Medal of Science

Physical Sciences

For contributions to our understanding of the structure and properties of matter, especially for his creation of absolute rate theory, one of the sharpest tools in the study of rates of chemical reaction.

For contributions to our understanding of the structure and properties of matter, especially for his creation of absolute rate theory, one of the sharpest tools in the study of rates of chemical reaction.

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Birth
February 20, 1901
Age Awarded
65
Country of Birth
Mexico
Key Contributions
Transition State Theory For Chemical Reactions (Reaction Rate Of Elementary Chemical Reactions
Absolute Rate Theory
Awarded by
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Education
Eastern Arizona College
University of Arizona
Areas of Impact
Theory & Foundations
Affiliations
University of Utah
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Henry Eyring dismissed the storied battle between religion and science, a struggle as old as the Bible itself. The renowned chemist, a third-generation Mormon, viewed his research as an examination of God’s handiwork – not a competitive threat.

“Is there any conflict between science and religion?" Eyring once asked. “There is no conflict in the mind of God, but often there is conflict in the minds of men.”

Eyring’s most influential idea, absolute rate theory, explains energy changes during a reaction.

For example, when atoms and molecules collide, they can form high energy structures that morph into different molecules as they fall out of the high energy state.

Aside from his scientific discoveries – chronicled in more than 600 publications – Eyring was also an advocate for chemical education, using clever analogies to explain complex ideas to students.

“If you can’t explain something to an eight-year-old,” he wrote. “you don’t really understand it yourself.”

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