Werner, Alfred (1866-1919), a French-born Swiss chemist, opened new areas of research in chemistry with his explanation of the internal structure of complex inorganic compounds. For this work, he was awarded the 1913 Nobel Prize in chemistry.
Werner made his major contributions in the application of stereochemistry to the field of inorganic chemistry. Stereochemistry deals with the arrangement or position of molecules or atoms in a substance. Werner attempted to explain the structure and nature of chemical bonds found in inorganic molecular compounds. In an 1891 paper, Werner broke with the conventional thought of his day by suggesting that affinity was a force coming from the center of the atom with uniform attraction in all directions. Two years later, he published a paper that put forth his coordination theory, which initially met with skepticism from other scientists because it dealt with compounds that had never been observed. Additional research proved that Werner's ideas were correct and they became universally accepted.
Werner earned his Ph.D. degree from the University of Zurich in 1890. His dissertation dealt with the spatial arrangement of atoms in nitrogen compounds. He continued with this line of study for a year in Paris before returning to Zurich in 1892 to teach organic chemistry at the Federal Institute of Technology. The following year he became associate professor at the University of Zurich and director of its chemical laboratory. In 1895, he was appointed professor of chemistry at the University of Zurich. He taught organic chemistry and in 1902 inorganic chemistry as well.