The Atmosphere

The Ozone Layer

Before the ozone layer was discovered, someone must have discovered ozone. Who was that?

Dutch chemist Martinus van Marum (1750–1837) discovered ozone around the year 1785, while conducting experiments with electricity. As many high school science students now do, van Marum smelled a distinctive odor while working with oxygen and electricity. Van Marum, who is also credited with discovering carbon monoxide, did not, however, identify the source of the odor as a unique gas molecule. It was not until 1840 that German-Swiss chemist Christian Friedrich Schönbein (1799–1868) correctly identified ozone as a gas, which he named after the Greek ozein, meaning “smell.” Finally, Swiss chemist J.L. Soret worked out its chemical structure as being a molecule consisting of three bonded oxygen atoms (O3).


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