Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro di Quaregna e di Cerreto, Count of Quaregna and Cerreto (9 August 1776, Turin, Piedmont – 9 July 1856) was an Italian savant. He is most noted for his contributions to molecular theory, including what is known as Avogadro's law. In tribute to him, the number of elementary entities (atoms, molecules, ions or other particles) in 1 mole of a substance, 6.02214179(30)×1023, is known as the Avogadro constant.
Amedeo Avagadro was born in 1776 in Turin, a city in northwestern Italy. Avogadro spent his entire life within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Turin, far from the cultural centers where chemistry was becoming a science. He received a classical education in the humanities, earned a doctorate in law in 1796 at the age of twenty, and practiced law for the next ten years. After auditing some courses and studying science on his own, Avogadro made a radical career change. In 1806 he became a secondary school science teacher, and in 1820 a university physics professor. He married in 1815, had seven children, and by all accounts, led a very happy family life. During his academic career, Avogadro's publications revealed an intense curiosity, sharp intuition, vivid imagination, rigorous logic, and independent judgment—traits of an outstanding scientists. His obituary in an Italian scientific journal remarked on his retiring disposition and on the simplicity of his life, and it noted his other researches, but it did not mention the 1811 paper on his molecular theory.
Avogadro's Molecular Theory
Avogadro made two assumptions about molecules in his 1811 publication. The first assumption is now known as Avogadro's hypothesis, sometimes also called the EVEN hypothesis. It stated that equal volumes of gases contain equal numbers (thus, even) of molecules at the same temperature and pressure. The hypothesis was based on a model of the gas state in which molecules are far apart and equally spaced so that each molecule occupies the same volume. The second assumption was that gas molecules can divide during chemical reactions. Avogadro used the EVEN hypothesis to interpret gas densities and assign molecular weights. EVEN implies that the density of a gas at a given temperature and pressure depends only on the weight of its molecules. Avogadro supposed that since the reported gas density of oxygen was 15 times that of hydrogen, the molecular weight of oxygen was 15 times that of hydrogen (the modern calculation of the ratio of the densities and molecular weights is actually sixteen). Consequently, he assigned oxygen a molecular weight of 15, relative to 1 for hydrogen. By this method Avogadro could determine a molecular weight for any gas, given its density. Avogadro needed both assumptions to explain reacting proportions and molecular compositions. For example, when water forms, the reacting proportions of hydrogen, oxygen, and water are 2:1:2 by volume. On the basis of the EVEN hypothesis, a 2:1:2 volumetric ratio should correspond to a 2:1:2 molecular ratio. Thus, two molecules of hydrogen (h) should combine with one molecule of oxygen (o) to give two molecules of water. Direct combination, however, would give only one molecule of h 2 o. To fit the volumetric data, Avogadro split the h 2 o water molecule into two ho 1/2 molecules. This in turn forced him to assume that oxygen molecules could divide into two "half molecules" during the reaction: 2h + o → [h 2 o] → 2ho 1/2 . He expressed the composition of water as one "half molecule" of oxygen combined with one molecule of hydrogen (ho 1/2 ). With the aid of his two assumptions—EVEN and divisible molecules—Avogadro determined compositions for water, ammonia, hydrogen chloride, and gaseous oxides of nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur. The Avogadro Constant
Although chemists usually work with moles as units, occasionally it is helpful to refer to the actual number of atoms or molecules involved. When this is done,...