American chemist and educator who, with Yuan T. Lee and John C. Polanyi,
was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1986 for his pioneering
use of molecular beams to analyze chemical reactions.
In an attempt to discover in detail the changes that occur in chemical
reactions, Herschbach applied a technique that was then becoming popular
in elementary particle physics--molecular beam scattering. He invented
what is known as the "crossed molecular beam technique," a
technique in which beams of molecules are brought together at supersonic
speed under carefully controlled conditions. This procedure enabled
a detailed, molecule-by-molecule examination of the chemical reaction
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