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Henry Taube

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Henry Taube is still remembered as one of the greatest chemists today. His work and research brought the study of oxidation numbers and redox reactions into a whole new dimension. In 1983 Taube earned himself a Nobel Peace Prize because of his work in the field of electron transfers. He is regarded as a great professor of Chemistry and Science. Taube is remembered for excessive research in inorganic chemistry and transitional metals. [1]

Univerity of California, Berkely, where Taube earned his doctorate

Education & Teaching

After high school, Taube attended University of Saskatchewan where he earned a masters in science. He then left for University of California-Berkeley to study for his science doctorate. In 1941 Taube began teaching science at Cornell University where he remained for five years until he was offered a position at University of Chicago, which he took and kept for fifteen years. When working in Chicago he was appointed to design curriculum for a new advanced inorganic chemistry course, but he found nowhere near enough information on this subject. This experience was one of the things that led him to study more into inorganic chemistry. Taube began teaching Chemistry at Stanford in 1962 and taught for twenty-six more years before retiring from teaching. He served on the board for Stanford's Department of Chemistry twice between the years of 1972 to 1979. [2]

Personal Life

Henry Taube was born to poor farming parents in the small Canadian town of Neudorf, Saskatchewan. His birth is documented to be on November 30th, 1915. Even though working on the farm was tedious and required more strength than intellectual work Taube was thankful for the experiences he went through because of it. Henry was enrolled in a Lutheran private school, but his family soon could not financially support his education there. Before the Taube's had the chance to pull Henry out of school a chemistry teacher recognize a potential in him and let him work in a lab to help pay for tuition. This allowed for Henry to stay and study at his school. This experience severely shaped Taube's future decision to become a chemist. [3]

It was not until he was twenty-seven that he became a United States citizen. At age thirty-six he married Mary; the two spent fifty-three happy years together. The two had two sons, Karl and Heinrich as well as a daughter, Linda. Coworker Peter C. Ford describes Taube as having an extreme interest in "gardening, opera, politics, mystery novels, baseball and tennis." [4]

Redox Reactions

Redox reactions, or reduction-oxidation reactions, were a major focal point of Taube's career and studies. He states that he was on of the first people to ever study redox reactions between metal ions. Henry Taube will almost certainly always be remembered as one of the most influential chemists concerning redox reactions and oxidation numbers. Taube's, as well as many other scientists, studies led to the following discoveries of redox reactions: reduction equals a decrease in oxidation number while oxidation equals an increase in the number. Redox reactions are balanced using these steps
Step One: Attach oxidation numbers to each compound
Step Two: Write out half-reactions
Step Three: Balance all reduced or oxidized atoms
Step Four: Balance non reduced or oxidized atoms
Step Five: Balance all charges
Step Six: Make all charges equal
Step Seven: Add all half-reactions back inot full reactions
Step Eight: Cancel out quantities.[5]

A Redox reaction combining silver and copper

Oxidation Numbers
An oxidation number, or oxidation state, explains the amount of electrons a element has gained or lost. Negative oxidation numbers are given to highly electronegative elements. The rules of assigning oxidation numbers are as follows:
Rule 1: All pure elements have the oxidation number 0.
Rule 2: The oxidation number and the charge of a monatomic ion is always the same.
Rule 3: If in a compound the oxidation number for the metals in Group 1A is +1.
Rule 4: If in a compound the oxidation number for the metals in Group 2A is +2.
Rule 5: Hydrogen has an oxidation number of +1 if bonded to a nonmetal and -1 if bonded to a metal. Rule 6: When s compound is neutral all of the oxidation numbers add up to 0.
Rule 7: When in a compound, oxygen usually has the oxidation number -2.
Rule 8: If an ion is polyatomic the oxidation numbers will add up to equal the charge of the ion. [6]


"The benefits of science are not to be reckoned only in terms of the physical."
"Science as an intellectual exercise enriches our culture, and is in itself ennobling."
"And as we continue to improve our understanding of the basic science on which applications increasingly depend, material benefits of this and other kinds are secured for the future."



Taube rightfully earned many awards throughout his career; these include: Guggenheim Fellow, 1949 and 1955
American Chemical Society Award for Nuclear Applications in Chemistry, 1955
Harrison Howe Award, Rochester Section, ACS, 1960
Chandler Medal, Columbia University, 1964
John Gamble Kirkwood Award, New Haven Section, ACS, 1966
ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry, 1967
Nichols Medal, New York, ACS, 1971
Willard Gibbs Medal, Chicago Section, ACS, 1971
F.P. Dwyer Medal, University of New South Wales, Australia, 1973
Honorary Doctorate (L.L.D.) University of Saskatchewan, 1973
Marguerite Blake Wilbur Endowed Professorship, 1976
National Medal of Science, Washington, D.C., 1977
Allied Chemical Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching & Innovative Science, 1979
Degree of Ph. D. Honoris Causa of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1979
T.W. Richards Medal of the Northeastern Section, ACS, 1980
ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry of the Monsanto Company, 1981
The Linus Pauling Award, Puget Sound Section, ACS, 1981
National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences, 1983
Bailar Medal, University of Illinois, 1983
Doctor of Science, University of Chicago, 1983
Robert A. Welch Foundation Award in Chemistry, 1983
Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1983
Doctor of Science, Polytechnic Institute, New York, 1984
Honorary Member, College of Chemists of Catalonia and Beleares, 1984
Priestley Medal, ACS, 1985
Doctor of Science, State University of New York, 1985
Corresponding Member, Academy of Arts and Science of Puerto Rico, 1985
Honorary Member, Canadian Society for Chemistry, 1986
Distinguished Achievement Award, International Precious Metals Institute, 1986
The Oesper Award, The Cincinnati Section of the American Chemical Society, 1986
Doctor of Science, University of Guelph, 1987
Honorary Member, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 1988
Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Seton Hall University, 1988
Doctor of Science, Lajos Kossuth University of Debrecen, Hungary, 1988
Honorary Fellowship, Royal Society of Chemistry, 1989
Honorary Fellowship, Indian Chemical Society 1989
G. M. Kosolapoff Award, Auburn Section, ACS, 1990
Doctor of Science, Northwestern University, 1990


  1. Title Author, Publisher, Date.
  2. Henry Taube, recipient of Nobel Prize in chemistry, dead at 89 Mark Shwartz, Stanford University News, November 17, 2005.
  3. World of Scientific Discovery on Henry Taube Thomson Gale,, Accessed 5/11.
  4. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named example
  5. Cox, Porch, and Wetzel. Chemistry for Christian Schools. South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 2000. (p.426).
  6. Rules for Assigning Oxidation Numbers Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.,, Accessed 5/11.
  7. Henry Taube Quotes & Sayings Author Unknown, SearchQuotes, 5/11.
  8. Curriculum Vitae Author Unknown, Nobel Prize, April 7th 2011.

Additional Information

  • Title Author, Publisher, Date.