Free radicals was discovered by chemistry professor Moses Gomberg in 1900 at the University of Michigan. At the time, most scientists had disagreement on the existence of free radicals due to many fail attempts, however Moses Gomberg managed to discover it.
Moses Gomberg (center) with students at the University of Michigan in 1915
The discovery of Organic Free Radicals by Moses Gomberg by American Chemical Society
Most of the scientists strongly believes that carbon must always have four covalent chemical bonds, while Gomberg discover the opposite. He managed to discover a free radical form of carbon with three bonds paired and a single unpaired electron.
Gomberg’s discovery made a major contribution to theoretical organic chemistry and fostered a field of research that continues to grow and expand. Gomberg’s finding encouraged more scientists to acknowledge the importance of free radicals.
Carbon with single unpaired electron
What happen later?
In 1933, Friedrich Paneth, Austrian-born British chemist together with his friend, Wilhelm Hofeditz explore further where they managed to produce free radicals called methyl (a group is an alkyl derived from methane), CH₃.
Friedrich Paneth (1887- 1958)
Morris Kharasch, a professor at the University of Chicago with his student, Frank Mayo conducted a chemical test using free radicals’ mechanisms and managed to discover ‘the peroxide effect’, which become one important fundamentals in chemistry.
Morris S. Kharasch (1895-1957)
“It is become an alarming issue that free radicals are widely used in plastics and rubber processing, even in medicine, and agriculture. Free radicals are naturally produced in our body, and also from the external free radicals' generating substances. Overloading into our body could lead to DNA damage, Cancer, Heart, Lungs Disease, Brain Disorder and accelerate cell aging.”