The Chemical Educator

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 132–135 | Cite as

The Henderson Approximation and the Mass Action Law of Guldberg and Waage

  • Robert de LevieEmail author
In the Classroom


Using contemporary accounts, we describe the scope of the Henderson approximation, and its relationship to the mass action law of Guldberg & Waage. The Henderson approximation, apparently written in logarithmic form by Hasselbalch, has the same form as the mass action law, but has a completely different meaning and a much more restricted range of applicability. The Guldberg-Waage law is the fundamental mass action relationship valid for all chemical equilibria, whereas the Henderson approximation is useful only within a limited range of a sufficiently concentrated two-component buffer mixture.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryBowdoin CollegeBrunswick

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