Skip to main content

Freundlich, Herbert Max Finlay


(b. Berlin-Charlottenburg, Germany, 28 January 1880; d. Minneapolis, Minnesota, 30 March 1941),

colloid and interface science.

Freundlich was the older brother of Erwin Freundlich. At the age of nineteen he transferred from the University of Munich to that of Leipzig, in order to study chemistry under Wilhelm Ost-wald. After graduating in 1903, he remained as Ostwald’s chief assistant, later private assistant, until 1911, when he became associate professor of physical chemistry at the Technische Hochschule in Brunswick. During World War I, Freundlich’s knowledge of adsorption enabled him to find agents for gas masks. He was noticed by Fritz Haber, wartime chief of the Chemical Warfare Service, who found a post for him after the war at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry in Berlin—Dahlem. From 1919 until 1933 Freundlich’s laboratory was one of the world’s chief centers of research in colloid and interface science. He followed Haber’s example of linking his fundamental research to industrial processes (such as brewing and ore flotation) and to technically important systems (such as rubber, paint, oil, and detergents). In 1933 Freundlich left Germany to escape Nazi harassment. A five—year research appointment at University College, London, was created for him by Imperial Chemical Industries. He was elected an honorary fellow of the Chemical Society (1938) and a foreign member of the Royal Society (1939). At the end of his tenure in London he accepted a special research professorship at the University of Minnesota but served there for only two years before he died of a coronary thrombosis.

Freundlich’s most important contributions are on the flocculation of colloidal dispersions by electrolytes, particularly on the significance of the zeta potential and his demonstration that it is not the same as the ordinary electrode (Nernst) potential; on the viscosity and elasticity of colloidal dispersions and the phenomenon of thixotropy (a term he coined): on the effects of ultrasonic vibrations on colloidal stability; and on the biological applications of the principles of colloid science, many of which he himself had developed or amplified.

Freundlich was highly cultivated and an accomplished musician; his temperament combined the artist and the scientist. A lively and engaging conversationalist, he wrote books and papers that are models of organization and forceful exposition.


I. Original Works. Freundlich’s major book is Kapillarchemie (Leipzig, 1909; 4th ed., 2 vols., 1930-1932). The English trans, of the 3rd ed. is Colloid and Capillary Chemistry (London. 1926); the 4th German ed., twice as long as the 3rd ed., has not yet been translated. A complete list of Freundlich’s 8 books and 243 papers is in the obituary notice by Donnan (see below).

II.Secondary Literature. Obituaries are F. G. Donnan, in Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society of London, 4 (1942). 27-50: R. A. Gortner and K. Sollner, in Science, 93 (1941), 414-416; H. S. Hat field, in Mature, 147 (1941). 568-569; E. K. Rideai. ibid., 568: and J. Traube. ibid., 148 (1941). 18.

Sydney Ross

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Freundlich, Herbert Max Finlay." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . 20 Apr. 2019 <>.

"Freundlich, Herbert Max Finlay." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . (April 20, 2019).

"Freundlich, Herbert Max Finlay." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Retrieved April 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.