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pH question!

Athel Cornish-Bowden athel at ir2cbm.cnrs-mrs.fr
Thu Jan 13 08:39:03 EST 2000

Achim wrote:

>'pH' stands for the Latin 'pondus hydrogenium', i.e., the weight/power of
>The term was coined and defined at the end of the 19th century by the Danish
>chemist Sorensen (the 'o' in the name has a slash through it) and a
>colleague, whose name I have forgotten.
The paper only has one name on it (Sorensen's), so I don't think there is
someone you've forgotten. It appeared simultaneously in German (Biochem. Z.
21, 131-304 (1909)), French (Compt. rend. Laboratory. Carlsberg 8, 1-174
(1909)) and Danish (Meddelser fra Carlsberg Laboratoriet 8, 153
(1909-1910)), so you can take your pick as to which you regard as the
primary source. According to Tom Boyde, who translated the French version
into English for "Foundation Stones of Biochemistry" (Voile et Aviron, Hong
Kong, 1980), pp. 156-262, the three versions are not the same. (I don't
suppose he read the Danish, but the French and German versions are

The person you might (conceivably) have forgotten is Michaelis, who was not
a coauthor and was not involved in introducing the symbol pH, but who had
been working on very similar lines and built on Sorensen's work extremely
soon after it was published. In 1914 he published what for a while was the
standard book, Die Wasserstoffionenkonzentration.

Athel Cornish-Bowden


Athel Cornish-Bowden

Bioenergetique et Ingenierie des Proteines,
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique,
31 chemin Joseph-Aiguier, B.P. 71,
13402 Marseille Cedex 20, France (CHANGED 1.1.2000)

athel at ibsm.cnrs-mrs.fr
Phone: + 33 491 16 41 38; fax: + 33 491 16 45 78 (CHANGED)


Now available: Basic Mathematics for Biochemists (2nd edn.)


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