Edith Humphrey

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Edith Ellen Humphrey
EducationBedford College

Edith Ellen Humphrey (11 September 1875 – 25 February 1978) was an inorganic chemist. She was probably the first woman from Britain to get a doctorate in chemistry.[1]

Life story[change | change source]

Early life[change | change source]

Edith Humphrey's father, John, was a clerk (secretary). Her mother, Louisa, was a teacher. John Humprey was poor when he was a child and wanted all his sons and daughters to get an education. Edith's two older sisters were teachers. One of her brothers was an inventor.

Humphrey went to North London Collegiate School, one of the first girls' schools in the UK to teach science.[2] From 1893 to 1897 Humphrey studied chemistry and physics at Bedford College, London. When she finished her degree she went to do a PhD (doctorate) at the University of Zurich.

Postgraduate study[change | change source]

On 17 October 1898, Humphrey entered the University of Zurich.[3] Her supervisor, Alfred Werner, found that Humphrey was talented, and made her his assistant. Humphrey worked hard, and was disappointed by the social life.[4]

Humphrey was Werner's first student to successfully prepare a type of compound that were very important in his development and proof of his coordination theory.[5] One of these compounds, the cis-bis(ethylenediamine)dinitrocobalt(III) bromide, was the first creation of a chiral octahedral cobalt complex.

References[change | change source]

  1. Rayner-Canham, Marelene; Rayner-Canham, Geoff (23 February 2009). "Fight for Rights" (PDF). Chemistry World. 6 (3): 56–59.
  2. Rayner-Canham, Marelene; Rayner-Canham, Geoff (2003). "Pounding on the Doors: The Fight for Acceptance of British Women Chemists" (PDF). Bulletin for the History of Chemistry. 28 (2).
  3. Congratulatory address and book of isolation of coordination compound by Edith Humphrey from the Swiss Committee of Chemistry to the Royal Society of Chemistry on its sesquicentenary, Royal Society of Chemistry, London, 1991, AR0497 / AR0497a
  4. Humphrey, Edith (June 1900). "The University of Zurich". Bedford College Magazine. Archives, Royal Holloway, University of London: 25–28. BC AS200/3/42.
  5. Bernal, Ivan; Kaufmann, George B. (July 1987). "The spontaneous resolution of cis-bis(ethylenediamine)dinitrocobalt(III) salts: Alfred Werner's overlooked opportunity". Journal of Chemical Education. 64 (7): 604–610. doi:10.1021/ed064p604.