George de Hevesy
George Charles de Hevesy, Georg Karl von Hevesy, (1 August 1885 – 5 July 1966) was a Hungarian
Hungarian may refer to:* Hungary, a country in Central Europe* Kingdom of Hungary, state of Hungary, existing from 1000 to 1946* Hungarian people, the ethnic group primarily associated with Hungary...

Radiochemistry is the chemistry of radioactive materials, where radioactive isotopes of elements are used to study the properties and chemical reactions of non-radioactive isotopes...

 and Nobel laureate, recognized in 1943 for his key role in the development of radioactive tracer
Radioactive tracer
A radioactive tracer, also called a radioactive label, is a substance containing a radioisotope that is used to measure the speed of chemical processes and to track the movement of a substance through a natural system such as a cell or tissue...

s to study chemical processes such as in the metabolism
Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories...

 of animals.

Early years

Hevesy György was born in Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

, Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 to a wealthy and ennobled Hungarian Jewish family, 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. George grew up in Budapest and graduated high school in 1903 from Piarista Gimnázium. The family's name in the 1904 was Hevesy-Bischitz, and Hevesy later changed his own.

De Hevesy began his studies in chemistry at the University of Budapest
University of Budapest
The Eötvös Loránd University or ELTE, founded in 1635, is the largest university in Hungary, located in Budapest.-History:The university was founded in 1635 in Nagyszombat by the archbishop and theologian Péter Pázmány. Leadership was given over to the Jesuits...

 for one year, and at the Technical University of Berlin
Technical University of Berlin
The Technische Universität Berlin is a research university located in Berlin, Germany. Translating the name into English is discouraged by the university, however paraphrasing as Berlin Institute of Technology is recommended by the university if necessary .The TU Berlin was founded...

 for several months, but changed to the University of Freiburg. There he came in contact with Ludwig Gattermann
Ludwig Gattermann
Ludwig Gattermann was a German chemist who contributed significantly to both organic and inorganic chemistry.- Early life :...

. In 1906 he started his Ph.D. thesis with Georg Franz Julius Meyer, acquiring his doctorate in physics in 1908. In 1908 Hevesy got a position at the ETH
Eth is a letter used in Old English, Icelandic, Faroese , and Elfdalian. It was also used in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages, but was subsequently replaced with dh and later d. The capital eth resembles a D with a line through the vertical stroke...



When Richard Lorenz
Richard Lorenz
Richard Lorenz is an Austrian bobsledder who competed from the late 1920s to the mid 1930s.Competing in two Winter Olympics, he earned his best finish of 11th in the four-man event at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936. In 1928 he finished 22nd in the four-man event.-References:*** - p. 415....

 left for the University of Frankfurt and Richard Willstätter
Richard Willstätter
Richard Martin Willstätter was a German organic chemist whose study of the structure of plant pigments, chlorophyll included, won him the 1915 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Willstätter invented paper chromatography independently of Mikhail Tsvet.-Biography:Willstätter was born in to a Jewish family...

 tried to convince him to stay in Zurich he decided to go to the University of Karlsruhe to work with Carl Bosch
Carl Bosch
Carl Bosch was a German chemist and engineer and Nobel laureate in chemistry. He was a pioneer in the field of high-pressure industrial chemistry and founder of IG Farben, at one point the world's largest chemical company....

. To learn new methods, de Hevesy joined Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson OM, FRS was a New Zealand-born British chemist and physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics...

's laboratory at the University of Manchester
University of Manchester
The University of Manchester is a public research university located in Manchester, United Kingdom. It is a "red brick" university and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive British universities and the N8 Group...

 in 1911 where he met and became friends with Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...


In 1923 de Hevesy co-discovered hafnium
Hafnium is a chemical element with the symbol Hf and atomic number 72. A lustrous, silvery gray, tetravalent transition metal, hafnium chemically resembles zirconium and is found in zirconium minerals. Its existence was predicted by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869. Hafnium was the penultimate stable...

 (72Hf) (Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 Hafnia for "Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

", the home town of Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

), with Dirk Coster
Dirk Coster
Dirk Coster , was a Dutch physicist. He was a Professor of Physics and Meteorology at the University of Groningen....

. Mendeleev
Dmitri Mendeleev
Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev , was a Russian chemist and inventor. He is credited as being the creator of the first version of the periodic table of elements...

's periodic table in 1869 put the chemical elements into a logical system, however there was missing a chemical element with 72 protons. On the basis of Bohr's atomic model Hevesy came to the conclusion that there must be a chemical element that goes there. 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. This earned him the 1943 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 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 will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature,...


Hevesy was offered and accepted a job from the University of Freiburg. Supported financially by the Rockefeller Foundation
Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation is a prominent philanthropic organization and private foundation based at 420 Fifth Avenue, New York City. The preeminent institution established by the six-generation Rockefeller family, it was founded by John D. Rockefeller , along with his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr...

, he had a very productive year. He developed the X-ray florescence analytical method, and discovered the Samarium
Samarium is a chemical element with the symbol Sm, atomic number 62 and atomic weight 150.36. It is a moderately hard silvery metal which readily oxidizes in air. Being a typical member of the lanthanide series, samarium usually assumes the oxidation state +3...

 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.

World War II and beyond

When Germany invaded Denmark in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

s of Max von Laue
Max von Laue
Max Theodor Felix von Laue was a German physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1914 for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals...

 and James Franck
James Franck
James Franck was a German Jewish physicist and Nobel laureate.-Biography:Franck was born to Jacob Franck and Rebecca Nachum Drucker. Franck completed his Ph.D...

 with aqua regia
Aqua regia
Aqua regia or aqua regis is a highly corrosive mixture of acids, fuming yellow or red solution, also called nitro-hydrochloric acid. The mixture is formed by freshly mixing concentrated nitric acid and hydrochloric acid, usually in a volume ratio of 1:3, respectively...

 to prevent the Nazis from stealing them. He placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute
Niels Bohr Institute
The Niels Bohr Institute is a research institute of the University of Copenhagen. The research of the institute spans astronomy, geophysics, nanotechnology, particle physics, quantum mechanics and biophysics....

. 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.

In 1943, Copenhagen was no longer seen as safe for a Jewish scientist, and de Hevesy fled to Sweden, where he worked at the Stockholm University College until 1961. Interestingly enough, in Stockholm, de Hevesy was received at the department of German-Swedish professor and Nobel Prize winner Hans von Euler-Chelpin
Hans von Euler-Chelpin
Hans Karl August Simon von Euler-Chelpin was a German-born Swedish biochemist. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1929 with Arthur Harden for their investigations on the fermentation of sugar and fermentative enzymes.He was professor of general and organic chemistry at Stockholm University...

, 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.

During his time in Stockholm, de Hevesy received the Nobel Prize in chemistry. He later was inducted as a member of the Royal Society and received the Copley Medal
Copley Medal
The Copley Medal is an award given by the Royal Society of London for "outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science, and alternates between the physical sciences and the biological sciences"...

, 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
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences or Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. The Academy is an independent, non-governmental scientific organization which acts to promote the sciences, primarily the natural sciences and mathematics.The Academy was founded on 2...

 in 1942, and his status was later changed to Swedish member. In 1949 he was elected Franqui Professor in the University of Ghent. He received the Atoms for Peace Award
Atoms for Peace Award
The Atoms for Peace Award was established in 1955 through a grant of $1,000,000 by the Ford Motor Company Fund. An independent nonprofit corporation was set up to administer the award for the development or application of peaceful nuclear technology. It was created in response to U.S. President...

 in 1958 for his peaceful use of radioactive isotopes.

De Hevesy married Pia Riis in 1924. They had one son and three daughters together. De Hevesy died in 1966 at the age of eighty and was buried in the Kerepesi Cemetery
Kerepesi Cemetery
Kerepesi Cemetery is the most famous cemetery in Budapest...

 in Budapest, Hungary. He had published a total of 397 scientific publications, one of which was the Becquerel-Curie Memorial Lecture, in which he had reminisced about the careers of pioneers of radiochemistry. At his family's request, his ashes were interred at his birthplace in Budapest on April 19, 2001.

See also

External links

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