In 1962 Neil Bartlett demonstrated the first reaction of a noble gas. The noble gas family of elements - helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon - had previously been regarded as inert. By combining xenon with a platinum fluoride, Bartlett created the first noble gas compound. This reaction began the field of noble gas chemistry, which became fundamental to the scientific understanding of the chemical bond. Noble gas compounds have helped create anti-tumor agents and have been used in lasers.
When Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen in 1774, he answered age-old questions of why and how things burn. An Englishman by birth, Priestley was deeply involved in politics and religion, as well as science. When his vocal support for the American and French revolutions made remaining in his homeland dangerous, Priestley left England in 1794 and continued his work in America until his death. His library of some 1,600 volumes and his chemical laboratory, where he first isolated carbon monoxide, were probably the best in the country at that time.
In his laboratory at Western Reserve University (Now Case Western Reserve University), Edward W. Morley carried out his research on the atomic weight of oxygen that provided a new standard to the science of chemistry. The accuracy of his analyses has never been superseded by chemical means. His great work, published in 1895, also gave important insight into the atomic theory of matter.
He observed, after carefully analysis of the volume proportions in which hydrogen and oxygen unite, that the atomic weight of oxygen was 15.879.
The plaque commemorating the event reads: