George de Hevesy

George Charles de Hevesy (German: Georg Karl von Hevesy; 1 August 1885 – 5 July 1966) was a Hungarian radiochemist and Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate, recognized in 1943 for his key role in the development of radioactive tracers to study chemical processes such as in the metabolism of animals. He also co-discovered the element hafnium.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

György Károly Hevesy
George de Hevesy
Georg Karl von Hevesy

1 August 1885
Died5 July 1966 (aged 80)
Alma materUniversity of Freiburg
Known for
Spouse(s)Pia Riis (m. 1924; 4 children)
AwardsNobel Prize for Chemistry (1943)
Copley Medal (1949)
Faraday Lectureship Prize (1950)
Atoms for Peace Award (1958)
Fellow of the Royal Society[1]
Scientific career
InstitutionsGhent University
University of Budapest
Niels Bohr Institute
ETH Zürich
University of Freiburg
University of Manchester
Stefan Meyer Institute for Subatomic Physics
Doctoral advisorGeorg Franz Julius Meyer


Early years

Hevesy György was born in Budapest, Hungary to a wealthy and ennobled family of Hungarian-Jewish descent,[7] the fifth of eight children to his parents Lajos (Louis) Bischitz and Baroness Eugenia (Jenny) Schossberger (ennobled as "De Tornya"). Grandparents from both sides of the family had provided the presidents of the Jewish community of Pest.[7] His parents converted to Roman Catholicism.[8] George grew up in Budapest and graduated high school in 1903 from Piarista Gimnázium. The family's name in 1904 was Hevesy-Bischitz, and Hevesy later changed his own.

De Hevesy began his studies in chemistry at the University of Budapest for one year, and at the Technical University of Berlin for several months, but transferred to the University of Freiburg. There he met Ludwig Gattermann. In 1906 he started his Ph.D. thesis with Georg Franz Julius Meyer,[9] acquiring his doctorate in physics in 1908. In 1908 Hevesy was offered a position at the ETH Zürich, Switzerland, yet being independently wealthy, he was able to choose his research environment. In succession he worked with Fritz Haber in Karlsruhe, Germany, then with Ernest Rutherford in Manchester, England, where he also met Niels Bohr. Back at home in Budapest he was appointed professor in physical chemistry in 1918. In 1920 he settled in Copenhagen.


In 1922 de Hevesy co-discovered (with Dirk Coster) the element hafnium (72Hf) (Latin Hafnia for "Copenhagen", the home town of Niels Bohr). Mendeleev's 1869 periodic table arranged the chemical elements into a logical system, but a chemical element with 72 protons was missing. Hevesy determined to look for that element on the basis of Bohr's atomic model. The mineralogical museum of Norway and Greenland in Copenhagen furnished the material for the research. Characteristic X-ray spectra recordings made of the sample indicated that a new element was present. Later, in 1943, the discovery would earn Hevesy the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The accepted account has been disputed by Mansel Davies and Eric Scerri who attribute the prediction that element 72 would be a transition element to the chemist Charles Bury.

Supported financially by the Rockefeller Foundation, Hevesy had a very productive year. He developed the X-ray fluorescence analytical method, and discovered the samarium alpha-ray. It was here he began the use of radioactive isotopes in studying the metabolic processes of plants and animals, by tracing chemicals in the body by replacing part of stable isotopes with small quantities of the radioactive isotopes. In 1923, Hevesy published the first study on the use of the naturally radioactive 212Pb as radioactive tracer to follow the absorption and translocation in the roots, stems and leaves of Vicia faba, also known as the broad bean.[10][11]

In 1924 Hevesy returned to Freiburg as Professor of Physical Chemistry, and in 1930 went to Cornell University, Ithaca as Baker Lecturer. Four years later he resumed his activities at Niels Bohr's Institute, based there through 1952. During 1943 he was domiciled in Stockholm and was an Associate of the Institute of Research in Organic Chemistry. In 1949 he was elected Franqui Professor in the University of Ghent. In his retirement, he remained an active scientific associate of the University of Stockholm. Hevesy was offered and accepted a job from the University of Freiburg.

World War II and beyond

Georg und Pia von Hevesy Stolpersteine
Stolpersteine for Georg and his wife Pia de Hevesy

When Nazi Germany occupied Denmark during World War II, de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prize medals of Max von Laue and James Franck in aqua regia. During the occupation, it was illegal to send gold out of the country. If Laue and Franck had done so to protect the medals from being stolen, they could have faced prosecution by the Nazis. De Hevesy placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. After the war, he returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The Nobel Society then recast the Nobel Prizes using the original gold.[12][13]

By 1943 Copenhagen was no longer safe for a Jewish scientist and de Hevesy fled to Sweden, where he worked at the Stockholm University College until 1961. In Stockholm de Hevesy was received at the department of chemistry by the Swedish professor and Nobel Prize winner Hans von Euler-Chelpin, who remained strongly pro-German throughout the war. Despite this, de Hevesy and von Euler-Chelpin collaborated on many scientific papers during and after the war.

While he was in Stockholm, de Hevesy received the Nobel Prize in chemistry. He was later inducted into the Royal Society and received the Copley Medal, of which he was particularly proud. De Hevesy stated: "The public thinks the Nobel Prize in chemistry for the highest honor that a scientist can receive, but it is not so. Forty or fifty received Nobel chemistry prizes, but only ten foreign members of the Royal Society and two (Bohr and Hevesy) received a medal-Copley." George de Hevesy was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1942, and his status was later changed to Swedish member. He received the Atoms for Peace Award in 1958 for his peaceful use of radioactive isotopes.

Family life and death

Hevesy György sírja
George de Hevesy's grave in Budapest. Cemetery Kerepesi: 27 Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

De Hevesy married Pia Riis in 1924. They had one son and three daughters together, one of whom (Eugenie) married a grandson of the Swedish Nobel laureate Svante Arrhenius.[14] De Hevesy died in 1966 at the age of eighty and was buried in Freiburg. In 2000, his corpse was transferred to the Kerepesi Cemetery in Budapest, Hungary.[15] He had published a total of 397 scientific documents, one of which was the Becquerel-Curie Memorial Lecture, in which he had reminisced about the careers of pioneers of radiochemistry.[16] At his family's request, his ashes were interred at his birthplace in Budapest on 19 April 2001.

10 May 2005 the Hevesy Laboratory was founded at Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, now Technical University of Denmark, DTU Nutech. It was named after George de Hevesy as the father of the isotope tracer principle by the initiative of the lab's first head Prof. Mikael Jensen.

See also


  1. ^ a b Cockcroft, J. D. (1967). "George de Hevesy 1885-1966". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 13: 125–126. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1967.0007.
  2. ^ Levi, H. (1976). "George von Hevesy memorial lecture. George Hevesy and his concept of radioactive indicators--in retrospect". European Journal of Nuclear Medicine. 1 (1): 3–10. doi:10.1007/BF00253259. PMID 797570.
  3. ^ Ostrowski, W. (1968). "George Hevesy inventor of isotope methods in biochemical studies". Postepy biochemii. 14 (1): 149–153. PMID 4870858.
  4. ^ Dal Santo, G. (1966). "Professor George C. De Hevesy. In reverent memory". Acta isotopica. 6 (1): 5–8. PMID 4865432.
  5. ^ "George De Hevesy". Triangle; the Sandoz journal of medical science. 91: 239–240. 1964. PMID 14184278.
  6. ^ Weintraub, B. (April 2005), "George de Hevesy: Hafnium and Radioactive Traces; Chemistry", Bull. Isr. Chem. Soc. (18): 41–43
  7. ^ a b Levi, Hilde (1985), George de Hevesy : life and work : a biography, Bristol: A. Hilger, p. 14, ISBN 9780852745557
  8. ^
  9. ^ Norrby, Erling (2013), Nobel Prizes and Nature's Surprises
  10. ^ Myers, W. G. (1979). "Georg Charles de Hevesy: The father of nuclear medicine". Journal of Nuclear Medicine. 20 (6): 590–594. PMID 395289.
  11. ^ Hevesy, G. (1923). "The Absorption and Translocation of Lead by Plants: A Contribution to the Application of the Method of Radioactive Indicators in the Investigation of the Change of Substance in Plants". The Biochemical Journal. 17 (4–5): 439–445. doi:10.1042/bj0170439. PMC 1263906. PMID 16743235.
  12. ^ Hevesy, George (1962), Adventures in radioisotope research, 1, New York: Pergamon press, p. 27
  13. ^ Birgitta Lemmel (2006). "The Nobel Prize Medals and the Medal for the Prize in Economics". The Nobel Foundation.
  14. ^ Scripps Log obituaries,
  15. ^ George Charles De Hevesy.
  16. ^ De Hevesy, George C. (1961), "Marie Curie and her contemporaries" (PDF), Journal of Nuclear Medicine, 2: 169–82, PMID 13714019

External links

1923 in science

The year 1923 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

1966 in science

The year 1966 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

August Krogh

Schack August Steenberg Krogh (15 November 1874 – 13 September 1949) was a Danish professor at the department of zoophysiology at the University of Copenhagen from 1916 to 1945. He contributed a number of fundamental discoveries within several fields of physiology, and is famous for developing the Krogh Principle.In 1920 August Krogh was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the mechanism of regulation of the capillaries in skeletal muscle. Krogh was first to describe the adaptation of blood perfusion in muscle and other organs according to demands through opening and closing the arterioles and capillaries.Besides his contributions to medicine, Krogh was also one of the founders of what is today Novo Nordisk.

Dirk Coster

Dirk Coster (October 5, 1889 – February 12, 1950), was a Dutch physicist. He was a Professor of Physics and Meteorology at the University of Groningen.

Coster was born in Amsterdam. On February 26, 1919, he married Lina Maria Wijsman, who held a degree in Oriental languages. Eventually, she was one of the first women to obtain a doctorate degree in this field from the University of Leiden. Dirk and Miep had two sons and two daughters (Hendrik, Ada, Els, and Herman). Coster is known as the co-discoverer of Hafnium (Hf) (element 72) in 1923, along with George de Hevesy, by means of X-ray spectroscopic analysis of zirconium ore. The discovery took place in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Hafnia is the Latin name for Copenhagen.

Elizabeth Rona

Elizabeth Rona (20 March 1890 – 27 July 1981) was a Hungarian nuclear chemist, known for her work with radioactive isotopes. After developing an enhanced method of preparing polonium samples, she was internationally recognized as the leading expert in isotope separation and polonium preparation. Between 1914 and 1918, during her postdoctoral study with George de Hevesy, she developed a theory that the velocity of diffusion depended on the mass of the nuclides. As only a few atomic elements had been identified, her confirmation of the existence of Uranium-Y was a major contribution to nuclear chemistry. She was awarded the Haitinger Prize by the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 1933.

After emigrating to the United States in 1941, she was granted a Carnegie Fellowship to continue her research and provided technical information on her polonium extraction methods to the Manhattan Project. Later in her career, she became a nuclear chemistry professor at the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies and after 15 years there transferred to the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Miami. At both Oak Ridge and Miami, she continued her work on the geochronology of seabed elements and radiometric dating. She was posthumously inducted into the Tennessee Women's Hall of Fame in 2015.

Faraday Lectureship Prize

The Faraday Lectureship Prize, previously known simply as the Faraday Lectureship is awarded once every three years (approximately) by the Royal Society of Chemistry for "exceptional contributions to physical or theoretical chemistry". Named after Michael Faraday, the first Faraday Lecture was given in 1869, two years after Faraday's death, by Jean-Baptiste Dumas. As of 2009, the prize was worth £5000, with the recipient also receiving a medal and a certificate. As the name suggests, the recipient also gives a public lecture describing his or her work.

Fernando del Valle

Fernando del Valle (né Brian Stephen Skinner; February 28, 1964) is an American operatic tenor. He is the son of Edward King Skinner II, a Korean War veteran and Concha Marina Meléndez del Valle. The grandson of Aranka Bischitz great great granddaughter of Baroness Johanna Bischitz von Heves and cousin of Hungarian radiochemist and Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate George de Hevesy and Fernando Melendez del Valle-Parker. He is the nephew of the Architect Manuel Roberto Meléndez Bischitz.


Hevesi (or Hevesy) is a Hungarian surname. The name derives from Heves, Hungary. Notable people with the surname include:

Alan Hevesi

Dennis Hevesi, reporter for the New York Times

Lőwy Hevesi Lajos

George de Hevesy, Nobel Prize–winning chemist

Hevesy (crater)

Hevesy is a lunar impact crater located on the lunar far side near the northern pole. The crater is located in between craters Plaskett and Haskin. The large Rozhdestvenskiy crater is located to the Northeast. Hevesy was adopted and named after Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy by the IAU in 2009.

Hilde Levi

Hilde Levi (9 May 1909 – 26 July 2003) was a German-Danish physicist. She was a pioneer of the use of radioactive isotopes in biology and medicine, notably the techniques of radiocarbon dating and autoradiography. In later life she became a scientific historian, and published a biography of George de Hevesy.

Born into a non-religious Jewish family in Frankfurt, Germany, Levi entered the University of Munich in 1929. She carried out her doctoral studies at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry at Berlin-Dahlem, writing her thesis on the spectra of alkali metal halides under the supervision of Peter Pringsheim and Fritz Haber. By the time she completed it in 1934, the Nazi Party had been elected to office in Germany, and Jews were no longer allowed to be hired for academic positions. She went to Denmark where she found a position at the Niels Bohr Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen. Working with James Franck and George de Hevesy, she published a number of papers on the use of radioactive substances in biology.

When the Nazis began rounding up Danish Jews in September 1943, Levi fled to Sweden, where she worked for the biologist John Runnström at the Wenner-Gren Institute for Experimental Biology in Stockholm. After the war ended, she returned to Denmark to work at the Zoophysiological Laboratory in Copenhagen. She spent the 1947–48 academic year in the United States learning about the recently discovered techniques of radiocarbon dating and autoradiography, which she introduced to Europe. She retired from the Zoophysiological Laboratory in 1979, but became involved with the Niels Bohr Archive, where she collected papers of de Hevesy, eventually publishing his biography.

Isotope dilution

Isotope dilution analysis is a method of determining the quantity of chemical substances. In its most simple conception, the method of isotope dilution comprises the addition of known amounts of isotopically-enriched substance to the analyzed sample. Mixing of the isotopic standard with the sample effectively "dilutes" the isotopic enrichment of the standard and this forms the basis for the isotope dilution method. Isotope dilution is classified as a method of internal standardisation, because the standard (isotopically-enriched form of analyte) is added directly to the sample. In addition, unlike traditional analytical methods which rely on signal intensity, isotope dilution employs signal ratios. Owing to both of these advantages, the method of isotope dilution is regarded among chemistry measurement methods of the highest metrological standing.What is Isotope?

Isotopes are variants of a particular chemical element which differ in neutron number. All isotopes of a given element have the same number of protons in each atom. The term isotope is formed from the Greek roots isos (ἴσος "equal") and topos (τόπος "place"), meaning "the same place"; thus, the meaning behind the name is that different isotopes of a single element occupy the same position on the periodic table.

Johann Böhm

Johann Böhm (20 January 1895 – 27 November 1952) was a German Bohemian chemist who focused on photochemistry and radiography. The aluminum-containing mineral boehmite (or böhmite) was named after him.Böhm studied at the German Polytechnic University in Prague and then worked with Fritz Haber in Berlin where he re-designed and considerably improved the Weissenberg x-ray goniometer. In 1926 George de Hevesy, then a professor at the University of Freiburg, invited Böhm to co-operate with him on a series of experiments in spectrographic analysis. Afterwards Böhm worked at Freiburg University as an assistant and later as an associate professor. From October 1935 he was a professor of physical chemistry at the

German University in Prague. After the war Böhm was allowed to remain in the country and become again a citizen of Czechoslovakia because he had been active in the anti-Nazi movement supporting Czech scientists such as Jaroslav Heyrovský, but was not permitted to continue his academic career. He worked in an industrial research institute in Rybitví (Výzkumný ústav organických syntéz). A few days before his death he was appointed Corresponding Member of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences.

He died in Prague on 27 November 1952.

List of Nobel laureates in Chemistry

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry (Swedish: Nobelpriset i kemi) is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the 1895 will of Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896. These prizes are awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine. As dictated by Nobel's will, the award is administered by the Nobel Foundation and awarded by a committee that consists of five members elected by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The first Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded in 1901 to Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff, of the Netherlands. Each recipient receives a medal, a diploma and a monetary award prize that has varied throughout the years. In 1901, van 't Hoff received 150,782 SEK, which is equal to 7,731,004 SEK in December 2007. The award is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on 10 December, the anniversary of Nobel's death.At least 25 laureates have received the Nobel Prize for contributions in the field of organic chemistry, more than any other field of chemistry. Two Nobel Prize laureates in Chemistry, Germans Richard Kuhn (1938) and Adolf Butenandt (1939), were not allowed by their government to accept the prize. They would later receive a medal and diploma, but not the money. Frederick Sanger is one out of two laureates to be awarded the Nobel prize twice in the same subject, in 1958 and 1980. John Bardeen is the other and was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1956 and 1972. Two others have won Nobel Prizes twice, one in chemistry and one in another subject: Maria Skłodowska-Curie (physics in 1903, chemistry in 1911) and Linus Pauling (chemistry in 1954, peace in 1962). As of 2018, the prize has been awarded to 180 individuals, including five women: Maria Skłodowska-Curie, Irène Joliot-Curie (1935), Dorothy Hodgkin (1964), Ada Yonath (2009), and Frances Arnold (2018).There have been eight years in which the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was not awarded. There were also nine years for which the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was delayed for one year. The Prize was not awarded in 1914, as the Nobel Committee for Chemistry decided that none of that year's nominations met the necessary criteria, but was awarded to Theodore William Richards in 1915 and counted as the 1914 prize. This precedent was followed for the 1918 prize awarded to Fritz Haber in 1919,, the 1920 prize awarded to Walther Nernst in 1921, the 1921 prize awarded to Frederick Soddy in 1922,, the 1925 prize awarded to Richard Zsigmondy in 1926, the 1927 prize awarded to Heinrich Otto Wieland in 1928, the 1938 prize awarded to Richard Kuhn in 1939, the 1943 prize awarded to George de Hevesy in 1944, and the 1944 prize awarded to Otto Hahn in 1945.

List of University of Freiburg people

This is a list of notable alumni and academics of the University of Freiburg. 10 Nobel laureates are associated with the university and 13 researchers have been honored with the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize since it was first awarded in 1986.

Niels Bohr

Niels Henrik David Bohr (Danish: [nels ˈboɐ̯ˀ]; 7 October 1885 – 18 November 1962) was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr was also a philosopher and a promoter of scientific research.

Bohr developed the Bohr model of the atom, in which he proposed that energy levels of electrons are discrete and that the electrons revolve in stable orbits around the atomic nucleus but can jump from one energy level (or orbit) to another. Although the Bohr model has been supplanted by other models, its underlying principles remain valid. He conceived the principle of complementarity: that items could be separately analysed in terms of contradictory properties, like behaving as a wave or a stream of particles. The notion of complementarity dominated Bohr's thinking in both science and philosophy.

Bohr founded the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen, now known as the Niels Bohr Institute, which opened in 1920. Bohr mentored and collaborated with physicists including Hans Kramers, Oskar Klein, George de Hevesy, and Werner Heisenberg. He predicted the existence of a new zirconium-like element, which was named hafnium, after the Latin name for Copenhagen, where it was discovered. Later, the element bohrium was named after him.

During the 1930s, Bohr helped refugees from Nazism. After Denmark was occupied by the Germans, he had a famous meeting with Heisenberg, who had become the head of the German nuclear weapon project. In September 1943, word reached Bohr that he was about to be arrested by the Germans, and he fled to Sweden. From there, he was flown to Britain, where he joined the British Tube Alloys nuclear weapons project, and was part of the British mission to the Manhattan Project. After the war, Bohr called for international cooperation on nuclear energy. He was involved with the establishment of CERN and the Research Establishment Risø of the Danish Atomic Energy Commission and became the first chairman of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in 1957.

School of Chemistry, University of Manchester

The School of Chemistry at the University of Manchester is one of the largest Schools of Chemistry in the United Kingdom, with over 600 undergraduate and more than 200 postgraduate research students.

The School has comprehensive academic coverage across the chemical sciences and in all the core sub-disciplines of chemistry, with over 120 postdoctoral researchers.

Tura, Hungary

Tura is a town in Pest County, Hungary. In 2001 Tura became a city.

Willy Marckwald

Willy Marckwald (1864, Jakobskirch, Germany – 1942, Rolândia, Brazil) was a German chemist. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1922 by Gustav Tammann and again in 1929 by Niels Bohr, Dirk Coster and George de Hevesy.

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