Historical Bad@$$: George de Hevesy

George Charles de Hevesy was a 20th century chemist born in 1885 into a Hungarian Jewish family. During his life he became an acquaintance of Neils Bohr and worked in Ernest Rutherford’s laboratory. Along with the Dutch physicist Dirk Coster, de Hevesy discovered hafnium, and developed a method for the use of plutonium-212 as a chemical tracer, allowing chemists and biologists to follow chemical and biological processes as they happened. de Hevesy won the 1943 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on radioactive tracers. But this is the most bad@$$ part, in WWII de Hevesy took the Nobel Prizes of James Franck (a German Jewish physicist) and Max von Laue (an opponent of the Nazi party), and hid them in the Niels Bohr Institute Laboratory where he worked, so that they wouldn’t be taken by Nazi German forces…and he dissolved both solid gold medals in aqua regia (one of the few acids that can dissolve gold). After the war, de Hevesy precipitated the gold back out from the acid and returned the gold to the Nobel Society to have the medals recast.

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1 Comment

Filed under Historical Bad@$$, History, Science

One response to “Historical Bad@$$: George de Hevesy

  1. Bibbi

    De Hevesy’s parent were both Catholics and so was he. He was persecuted by te Nazis for being of Jewish descent, not for being Jewish.

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