oliver w. gibbs

Oliver Wolcott Gibbs

For the writer, see Wolcott Gibbs.

Oliver Wolcott Gibbs (February 21, 1822December 9, 1908) was an American chemist. He is known for performing the first electrogravimetric analyses, namely the reductions of copper and nickel ions to their respective metals.


Oliver Wolcott Gibbs was born in New York City in 1822 to George and Laura Gibbs. His father, Colonel George Gibbs, was an ardent mineralogist; the mineral gibbsite was named after him, and his collection was finally bought by Yale College. Entering Columbia College in 1837, Wolcott (he dropped the name "Oliver" at an early date) graduated in 1841, and, having assisted Robert Hare at Pennsylvania University for several months, he next entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, qualifying as a doctor of medicine in 1845.

Leaving America, Gibbs studied in Germany with Karl Friedrich August Rammelsberg, Heinrich Rose, and Justus von Liebig, and in Paris with Auguste Laurent, Jean-Baptiste Dumas, and Henri Victor Regnault, returning to the United States in 1848. In that same year he became professor of chemistry at the Free Academy, now the City College of New York. Gibbs was a candidate for Professor of Physical Science at Columbia in 1854, but his application was rejected because he was a Unitarian. Gibbs became the Rumford professor at Harvard University in 1863, a post he held until his retirement in 1887 as professor emeritus. After retirement he moved to Newport, Rhode Island where he worked for about a decade in his own private laboratory.

Gibbs's researches were mainly in analytical and inorganic chemistry, the cobalt-amines, platinum metals, and complex acids being especially investigated. He also published a number of articles related to spectroscopy and the measurement of wavelengths. Gibbs was said to have been an excellent teacher who contributed many articles to scientific journals.


  • National Academy of Sciences, President, 1895-1900 (He also was a founding member.)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science, President, 1897
  • Gibbs has been immortalized in the naming of the Gibbs features in and near Yosemite National Park. Mt. Gibbs stands 3,893 metres (12,773 ft) above sea level. Gibbs Lake is located at 2,905 m (9,530 ft) above sea level in the canyon northeast of the peak. Gibbs Lake is formed by Gibbs Creek, originating in the upper reaches of Gibbs Canyon, and drains into Lee Vining Canyon.
  • Gibbs is one of the few scientists recognized in the United States Capitol in Washington DC. A small statue of him is on the Amateis bronze doors.


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