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Polarography celebrates 100 years

Polarography, for many years considered the queen of analytical methods, celebrates its 100th anniversary on 10 February 2022. The discoverer of this scientific method, which made Czechoslovakia famous in professional circles all over the world, Nobel Prize winner Prof. Jaroslav Heyrovský, also worked at our faculty, where he founded the Department of Physical Chemistry.


The polarography method made it possible to find out in a simple way and at low cost what substances are present in the environment and in what quantities. It works on the principle of measuring the electric current that passes through a mercury droplet and the solution into which the mercury drips.

Polarography was developed, simplified, introduced and promoted by Prof. Heyrovsky during his travels abroad for many years. The first polarographic school was even established at Charles University in Prague, and in 1925 Prof. Heyrovsky, together with his Japanese pupil Masuzo Shikana, built the first polarograph that automatically recorded curves during measurements. 

In industry, this method is used to determine the composition of raw materials or products, both desirable ones, such as vitamins, and undesirable ones, such as pesticides. Medicine uses it, among other things, in blood tests. Polarography has also made it possible to identify certain diseases, such as cancer, by analysing changes in the proteins in the blood.  Glucometers, sensors for measuring the concentration of dissolved oxygen and probes for optimising the gasoline/air ratio of spark-ignition engines also work on its principle today. 

Prof. PhDr. Jaroslav Heyrovský, DSc. (1890 - 1967)

Czech physical chemist, discoverer and founder of polarography, founder of the so-called Czechoslovak electrochemical school

- after studying at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Prague, majoring in chemistry, physics and mathematics (there was no separate faculty of science at that time), he continued his studies in physical chemistry at University College London

- during World War I he was a pharmaceutical chemist and radiologist in Austrian hospitals
- followed the work of Professor Bohumil Kučera, who drew Heyrovský's attention to general questions of electrocapillarity and to discrepancies in surface voltage values

- in 1922 he developed polarography, a method using the measurement of the electric current that passes through a mercury droplet and the solution into which the mercury drips

- After the war, he worked at Charles University, where he became a professor in 1926

 - co-founded the Institute of Polarography in 1951, which he headed until 1963

Greetings of Dr. Raja Heyrovska, daughter-in-law  of academician Jaroslav Heyrovský: 

Hundred years ago on February 10, Jaroslav Heyrovsky used renewable dropping mercury electrode as a tool for obtaining the current, voltage curve for dissolved solutes in solutions. Thus, polarography was born and has now stood a century as a unique electrochemical method thanks to the renewable fresh metal/solution interface which makes the current, voltage curves absolutely reproducible. May polarography thrive!

Dr. Raji Heyrovska 


Published: Feb 10, 2022 11:45 AM

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