He is born on February 19, 1859, near the old university town of Uppsala in Sweden.
Even at an early age, he manifests a great gift for Mathematics, particularly for Algebra. At age 16, he already receives his school-leaving certificate, and in 1876, he begins the study of Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics at the University of Uppsala. From 1881 to 1884, Arrhenius continues his studies at the Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, where he completes his doctoral thesis on the conductivity of electrolytes in 1884. In the same year, he becomes a lecturer at the University of Uppsala.
In 1886 and 1887, he spends a research stay at the University of Würzburg, with Professor Kohlrausch.
In 1895, he is appointed to a professorship at the University of Uppsala. One year later, he publishes a paper on the influence of carbon dioxide on the air, predicting global warming in case of an increasing carbon dioxide content even then.
In 1903, he is awarded the Nobel Prize for his theory of electrolytic dissociation. Two years later, he becomes Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics himself.
On October 2, 1927, Swante Arrhenius dies in Stockholm.
Arrhenius' doctoral dissertation dealt with a measuring problem and a problem of interpretation, for Arrhenius maintained sodium and chlorine ions were present in a solution of common salt. Yet, everybody knew that sodium reacts to water with a sizzle effect, and that chlorine is a gas that should rise in bubbles. Arrhenius recognized that ions behave differently from atoms. Atoms would react as expected. It took a number of years for chemists and physicists to become convinced by Arrhenius' Ion Theory. In his further research, Arrhenius was intensely interested in the rapidity of chemical reactions and their balance.
In 1903, Arrhenius eventually received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his accurate theory of electrolytic dissociation.
Working and Living in Würzburg
In the winter semester of 1886/1887, Arrhenius used a travel grant to study the measuring technique for the conductivity of diluted solutions developed by Würzburg physicist Kohlrausch. On this occasion, he also met Walter Nernst, then working towards his dissertation with Kohlrausch, who was to receive the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1920.
In Würzburg, Arrhenius heard of van't Hoffs ideas on the analogies of gases and solutions and visited him in Amsterdam shortly afterwards.