November 1965

The Chemistry of Buffers

Author Affiliations


Biochemist, Minneapolis Veterans Hospital and Research Fellow, University of Minnesota.

Arch Intern Med. 1965;116(5):658-664. doi:10.1001/archinte.1965.03870050012004

OUR conceptualization and operating knowledge of buffers and buffer mechanisms must, of necessity, have as their basis notions concerning the nature of acids and bases. The concurrent influence of two major theories of acids and bases, those of Arrhenius and Brønsted-Lowry, has resulted in much confusion concerning terminology and definitions in the areas of buffers and electrolytes.

The current vigorous exposition and application of the Brønsted-Lowry theory of acids and bases in clinical chemistry and in medicine has done much to clarify this confusion. However, it might be well to recognize that yet another, more general, acid-base theory, that of G. N. Lewis, is gaining in usefulness.

I will attempt to provide a mechanical-physical basis for the notions of acids and bases and their dissociation and then follow with a description of the properties of the Brønsted-Lowry theory which make it particularly well suited to biochemical systems. The theory of

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