Society: Arts and Science – January 1

Today is International Thanksgiving Day! A day to celebrate your life in a special way…

Swedish and Norwegian committees bestow Nobel Prizes in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. The 1895 will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Eugene Paul “E. P.” Wigner died on this date in 1995. He was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist and mathematician. He received half of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963 “for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles”. A graduate of the Technical University of Berlin, Wigner worked as an assistant to Karl Weissenberg and Richard Becker at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, and David Hilbert at the University of Göttingen. Wigner and Hermann Weyl were responsible for introducing group theory into physics, particularly the theory of symmetry in physics. Along the way, he performed ground-breaking work in pure mathematics, in which he authored a number of mathematical theorems. In particular, Wigner’s theorem is a cornerstone in the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics. He is also known for his research into the structure of the atomic nucleus. In 1930, Princeton University recruited Wigner, along with John von Neumann, and he moved to the United States. Wigner participated in a meeting with Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein that resulted in the Einstein-Szilard letter, which prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to initiate the Manhattan Project to develop atomic bombs. Wigner was afraid that the German nuclear weapon project would develop an atomic bomb first. During the Manhattan Project, he led a team whose task was to design nuclear reactors to convert uranium into weapons-grade plutonium. At the time, reactors existed only on paper, and no reactor had yet gone critical. Wigner was disappointed that DuPont was given responsibility for the detailed design of the reactors, not just their construction. He became Director of Research and Development at the Clinton Laboratory (now the Oak Ridge National Laboratory) in early 1946, but became frustrated with bureaucratic interference by the Atomic Energy Commission, and returned to Princeton. In the postwar period he served on a number of government bodies, including the National Bureau of Standards from 1947 to 1951, the mathematics panel of the National Research Council from 1951 to 1954, the physics panel of the National Science Foundation, and the influential General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission from 1952 to 1957 and again from 1959 to 1964. In later life, he became more philosophical and published The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences, his best-known work outside of technical mathematics and physics.





Society: Arts and Science – November 17

Today is International Thanksgiving Day! A day to celebrate your life in a special way…

Swedish and Norwegian committees bestow Nobel Prizes in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. In 1895, the will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Robert Hofstadter died on this date in 1990. He was an American physicist. He was the joint winner of the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physics (together with Rudolf Mössbauer) “for his pioneering studies of electron scattering in atomic nuclei and for his consequent discoveries concerning the structure of nucleons”.
Eugene Paul “E. P.” Wigner was born on this date in 1902. He was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist and mathematician. He received half of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963 “for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles”. A graduate of the Technical University of Berlin, Wigner worked as an assistant to Karl Weissenberg and Richard Becker at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, and David Hilbert at the University of Göttingen. Wigner and Hermann Weyl were responsible for introducing group theory into physics, particularly the theory of symmetry in physics. Along the way, he performed ground-breaking work in pure mathematics, in which he authored a number of mathematical theorems. In particular, Wigner’s theorem is a cornerstone in the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics. He is also known for his research into the structure of the atomic nucleus. In 1930, Princeton University recruited Wigner, along with John von Neumann, and he moved to the United States. Wigner participated in a meeting with Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein that resulted in the Einstein-Szilard letter, which prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to initiate the Manhattan Project to develop atomic bombs. Wigner was afraid that the German nuclear weapon project would develop an atomic bomb first. During the Manhattan Project, he led a team whose task was to design nuclear reactors to convert uranium into weapons-grade plutonium. At the time, reactors existed only on paper, and no reactor had yet gone critical. Wigner was disappointed that DuPont was given responsibility for the detailed design of the reactors, not just their construction. He became Director of Research and Development at the Clinton Laboratory (now the Oak Ridge National Laboratory) in early 1946, but became frustrated with bureaucratic interference by the Atomic Energy Commission, and returned to Princeton. In the postwar period he served on a number of government bodies, including the National Bureau of Standards from 1947 to 1951, the mathematics panel of the National Research Council from 1951 to 1954, the physics panel of the National Science Foundation, and the influential General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission from 1952 to 1957 and again from 1959 to 1964. In later life, he became more philosophical and published The “Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics” in the Natural Sciences, his best-known work outside of technical mathematics and physics.

Society: Arts and Science – October 22


The Nobel Prize is bestowed annually in categories as selected by Swedish and Norwegian committees in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. The 1895 will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Albert Szent-Györgyi de Nagyrápolt died on this date in 11986. He was a Hungarian physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937. He is credited with discovering vitamin C and the components and reactions of the citric acid cycle. He was also active in the Hungarian Resistance during World War II and entered Hungarian politics after the war.
Clinton Joseph Davisson was born on this date in 1881. He was an American physicist who won the 1937 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of electron diffraction in the famous Davisson-Germer experiment. Davisson shared the Nobel Prize with George Paget Thomson, who independently discovered electron diffraction at about the same time as Davisson.
George Wells Beadle was born on this date in 1903. He was an American scientist in the field of genetics, and Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Nobel laureate who with Edward Lawrie Tatum discovered the role of genes in regulating biochemical events within cells in 1958. Beadle and Tatum’s key experiments involved exposing the bread mold Neurospora crassa to x-rays, causing mutations. In a series of experiments, they showed that these mutations caused changes in specific enzymes involved in metabolic pathways. These experiments led them to propose a direct link between genes and enzymatic reactions, known as the One gene-one enzyme hypothesis.


Society: Arts and Science – June 3


The Nobel Prize is bestowed annually in categories as selected by Swedish and Norwegian committees in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. The 1895 will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Frans Eemil Sillanpää died on this date in 1964. He was one of the most famous Finnish writers and in 1939 became the first Finnish writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
Georg von Békésy was born on this date in 1899. He was a Hungarian biophysicist born in Budapest, Hungary. In 1961, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the function of the cochlea in the mammalian hearing organ.
Francis Harry Compton Crick, OM, FRS was born on this date in 1916. He was a British molecular biologist, biophysicist, and neuroscientist, most noted for being a co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953 with James Watson. Together with Watson, and Maurice Wilkins he was jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material”. Crick was an important theoretical molecular biologist and played a crucial role in research related to revealing the genetic code. He is widely known for use of the term “central dogma” to summarize the idea that genetic information flow in cells is essentially one-way, from DNA to RNA to protein. During the remainder of his career, he held the post of J.W. Kieckhefer Distinguished Research Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. His later research centered on theoretical neurobiology and attempts to advance the scientific study of human consciousness. He remained in this post until his death; “he was editing a manuscript on his death bed, a scientist until the bitter end” according to Christof Koch.


Society: Arts and Science – April 22


The Nobel Prize is bestowed annually in categories as selected by Swedish and Norwegian committees in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. The 1895 will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Henri La Fontaine was born on this date in 1854. He was a Belgian international lawyer and president of the International Peace Bureau. He received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1913.
Róbert Bárány was born on this date in 1876. He was an Austro-Hungarian otologist. For his work on the physiology and pathology of the vestibular apparatus of the ear he received the 1914 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Emilio Gino Segrè diedn on this date in 1989. He was an Italian physicist and Nobel laureate who discovered the elements technetium and astatine, and the antiproton, a sub-atomic antiparticle, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1959. Born in Tivoli, near Rome, Segrè studied engineering at the University of Rome La Sapienza before taking up physics in 1927. Segrè was appointed assistant professor of physics at the University of Rome in 1932 and worked there until 1936, becoming one of the Via Panisperna boys. From 1936 to 1938 he was Director of the Physics Laboratory at the University of Palermo. After a visit to Ernest O. Lawrence’s Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, he was sent a molybdenum strip from the laboratory’s cyclotron deflector in 1937 which was emitting anomalous forms of radioactivity. After careful chemical and theoretical analysis, Segrè was able to prove that some of the radiation was being produced by a previously unknown element, dubbed technetium, which was the first artificially synthesized chemical element which does not occur in nature. In 1938, Benito Mussolini’s fascist government passed anti-Semitic laws barring Jews from university positions. As a Jew, Segrè was now rendered an indefinite émigré. At the Berkeley Radiation Lab, Lawrence offered him a job as a Research Assistant. While at Berkeley, Segrè helped discover the element astatine and the isotope plutonium-239, which was later used to make the Fat man atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. From 1943 to 1946 he worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a group leader for the Manhattan Project. He found in April 1944 that Thin Man, the proposed plutonium gun-type nuclear weapon would not work because of the presence of plutonium-240 impurities. In 1944, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. On his return to Berkeley in 1946, he became a professor of physics and of history of science, serving until 1972. Segrè and Owen Chamberlain were co-heads of a research group at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory that discovered the antiproton, for which the two shared the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physics. Segrè was also active as a photographer, and took many photos documenting events and people in the history of modern science, which were donated to the American Institute of Physics after his death. The American Institute of Physics named its photographic archive of physics history in his honor.


Society: Arts and Science – April 8


The Nobel Prize is bestowed annually in categories as selected by Swedish and Norwegian committees in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. The 1895 will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Róbert Bárány died on this date in 1936. He was an Austro-Hungarian otologist. For his work on the physiology and pathology of the vestibular apparatus of the ear he received the 1914 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Erik Axel Karlfeldt died on this date in 1931. He was a Swedish poet whose highly symbolist poetry masquerading as regionalism was popular and won him the Nobel Prize in Literature posthumously in 1931. It has been rumored that he had been offered, but declined, the award already in 1919. Karlfeldt was born into a farmer’s family in Karlbo, in the province of Dalarna. Initially, his name was Erik Axel Eriksson, but he assumed his new name in 1889, wanting to distance himself from his father, who had suffered the disgrace of a criminal conviction. He studied at Uppsala University, simultaneously supporting himself by teaching school in several places, including Djursholms samskola in the Stockholm suburb of Djursholm and at a school for adults. After completing his studies, he held a position at the Royal Library of Sweden, in Stockholm, for five years. In 1904 Karlfeldt was elected a member of the Swedish Academy and held chair number 11. In 1905 he was elected a member of the Nobel Institute of the Academy, and, in 1907, of the Nobel Committee. In 1912 he was elected permanent secretary of the Academy, a position he held until his death. Uppsala University, Karlfeldt’s alma mater, awarded him the title of Doctor honoris causae in 1917.
Daniel Bovet ForMemRS died on this date in 1992. He was a Swiss-born Italian pharmacologist who won the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of drugs that block the actions of specific neurotransmitters. He is best known for his discovery in 1937 of antihistamines, which block the neurotransmitter histamine and are used in allergy medication. His other research included work on chemotherapy, sulfa drugs, the sympathetic nervous system, the pharmacology of curare, and other neuropharmacological interests. In 1965, Bovet led a study team which concluded that smoking of tobacco cigarettes increased users’ intelligence. He told The New York Times that the object was not to “create geniuses, but only [to] put the less-endowed individual in a position to reach a satisfactory mental and intellectual development. Bovet was born in Fleurier, Switzerland. He was a native Esperanto speaker. He graduated from the University of Geneva in 1927 and received his doctorate in 1929. Beginning in 1929 until 1947 he worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He then moved in 1947 to the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Superior Institute of Health) in Rome. In 1964, he became a professor in at the University of Sassari in Italy. From 1969 to 1971, he was the head of the National Research Council in Rome before stepping down to become a professor at the University of Rome La Sapienza. He retired in 1982.
Melvin Ellis Calvin was born on this date in 1911. He was an American chemist most famed for discovering the Calvin cycle along with Andrew Benson and James Bassham, for which he was awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He spent most of his five-decade career at the University of California, Berkeley.


Society: Arts and Science – September 23


The Nobel Prize is bestowed annually in categories as selected by Swedish and Norwegian committees in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. The 1895 will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Richard Adolf Zsigmondy died on this date in 1929. He was an Austrian-Hungarian chemist. He was known for his research in colloids, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1925. The crater Zsigmondy on the Moon is named in his honour.
Sir John Boyd Orr, 1st Baron Boyd-Orr CH, DSO, MC, FRS was born on this date in 1880. He was a Scottish teacher, doctor, biologist and politician who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his scientific research into nutrition and his work as the first Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). He was the co-founder and the first President (1960–1971) of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS).