The 14th International Conference on

Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences

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Gustavus Detlef Hinrichs


Gustavus Detlef Hinrichs

Gustavus Detlef Hinrichs (2 December 1836 – 14 February 1923) was a chemist and natural philosopher most widely known for his findings on periodic laws within the chemical elements.

Hinrichs was born in 1836 at Lunden, Holstein, part of the German Confederation which at that time belonged to Denmark. He attended the local polytechnic school and the University of Copenhagen. During his schooling he published several articles and books, including descriptions of the magnetic field of earth and its interaction with the aether.

Hinrichs graduated in 1860, between the First and Second Schleswig Wars. He emigrated later that year to the United States, settling initially in Davenport, Iowa where he taught school, then in nearby Iowa City. In 1863 he was made professor of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and Modern Languages at the University of Iowa. Hinrichs founded the first state weather and crop service in the United States. He was the head of the Iowa Weather Service until 1886. He was first to identify and name the straight-line storm phenomenon he called the "derecho." He stayed at that University until fired in 1886 by the state Board of Regents due to disputes with the University president and faculty members. He became professor at the St. Louis University in 1889 and stayed there until his retirement in 1907.

Hinrichs is one of the discoverers of the periodic laws which are the basis for the periodic table of elements. Although his contribution is not widely considered as important as that of Mendeleev or Lothar Meyer, he stated his ideas as early as 1855 and published his book Programme der Atommechanik in 1867. His periodic table had the form of a spiral and the elements were placed into the structure according to their atomic mass. Hinrichs also postulated theory on the cause of the periodicity within the chemical elements. His theory was based on the composition of the elements out of smaller Panatome. The Trigonoides are the nonmetals made from regular triangles, while the metallic Tetragonoides were made from squares. Algebraic formulas of how to mix squares and triangles gave the periodic laws. His "controversial ideas and colorful personality" proved to be an obstacle to the spread of his ideas.


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