Surface chemistry

This film comes from the ‘Nobel Science Series’ from the American Institute of Motion Pictures.

Filmed in 1939, this film shows Doctor Irving Langmuir, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1932)"for his discoveries and investigations in surface chemistry". This film was part of a series presenting Nobel Laureates demonstrating their experiments to inspire enduring contributions to progress. By these living biographies it was hoped their work may be immortalized.

The film shows Dr Langmuir, and his associate Doctor Katherine Blodgett, presenting their work as a living record. It starts with a brief clip of a Nobel Prize giving ceremony, before going onto show Dr. Langmuir describing his background and research, including his discovery of the incandescent lightbulb.

You then get to see Dr Langmuir in his laboratories at the General Electric Company. He uses the film to describe his interest in science and in particular atoms and molecules. He demonstrates his thin film experiments, showing motion on the surface of liquids before going on to show the spread of protein films on the surface of water and the patterns that can be made.

This short film then highlights the work of Dr Katherine Blodgett who for some time acted as Dr Langmuir's assistant. It shows her demonstrating her innovation of thin film technologies on glass, creating ‘invisible glass’ which has a low reflectance. The film shows how some instruments can be made to be easier to read/see thanks to a non-reflective film that prevents the reflection of sunlight.

For this film, and several others in our collection, we have tried to contact any known copyright holders and believe it to be an orphan work. If you are the rights holder, would like it to be taken down, or have any more information, please get in touch at

Try it yourself

Many of the demostrations shown here are great to try at home with your children, or in the classroom. This video from our ExpeRimental series shows you how:

More from the Bragg archive