Wilhelm Johann Schlenk (22 March 1879 – 29 April 1943) was a German chemist. He was born in Munich and also studied chemistry there. Schlenk succeeded Hermann Emil Fischer at the University of Berlin in 1919.
Schlenk was an organic chemist who discovered organolithium compounds around 1917. He also investigated free radicals and carbanions and discovered (together with his son) that organomagnesium halides are capable of participating in a complex chemical equilibrium, now known as a Schlenk equilibrium.
Today Schlenk is remembered mostly for developing techniques to handle air-sensitive compounds, and for his invention of the Schlenk flask. The latter is a reaction vessel with a glass or Teflon tap for the addition and removal of gases, such as nitrogen or argon. He is also known for the Schlenk line, a double manifold incorporating a vacuum system and a gas line joined by double oblique taps that allow the user to switch between vacuum and gas for the manipulation of air-sensitive compounds.
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“When Philosophy with its abstractions paints grey in grey, the freshness and life of youth has gone, the reconciliation is not a reconciliation in the actual, but in the ideal world.”
—Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (17701831)