Gomberg was born in the Ukraine but at the age of 18, being accused with his father of anti-Czarist activities, escaped to the United States. Except for a year in Germany studying with von Baeyer and Victor Meyer, he spent his entire career at the University of Michigan. During his brief stay with Meyer he synthesized (where others had failed) tetraphenylmethane. In an attempt to prepare the next homolog hexaphenylethane, from triphenylmethyl chloride and fine silver powder, he instead obtained the peroxide Ph3COOCPh3; in the absence of air Ph3C. was formed, the first organic free radical to be isolated. Though his ideas were at first challenged, they were shown to be correct and Gomberg is considered the father of free radical chemistry. He was one of the most eminent organic chemists of his time.
Sponsor: Anonymous Faculty Member
Location in chemistry building: Second Floor; West Wing South Wall; Sequence 1
Source: Chemical Heritage Foundation