Business Technology

Thursday 22 August 2019

Google Doodle remembers the exceptional life of pioneering physicist Hedwig Kohn

Chelsea Ritschel

Physicist Hedwig Kohn is being honoured with a Google Doodle on what would have been her 132nd birthday.

Kohn, one of just three women certified to teach physics at a German university before World War II, was born in Breslau, which is now Wrocław, Poland, on 5 April 1887.

Throughout her lengthy career, she overcame trials and adversity to become a notable physicist during a time when opportunities available to both women and Jews were limited.

The physicist's work was published in more than 20 journals throughout her life and in a physics textbook used as a standard introduction to the field of radiometry into the 1960s.

Kohn was removed from her position in 1993 when Nazi Germany regulations barring Jews from government service went into place, but rather than giving up on her aspirations, Kohn continued her work by focusing on research contracts for the next few years.

By 1938, it was clear that Kohn was not safe in the country, but it would take two more years before she was able to secure a visa and a job teaching in America. Her persistence and intelligence were critical in helping her escape Germany as the second World War began to take hold, as she was able to successfully prove her skills would be useful in the US.

Upon arriving in the US, Kohn again took up a position as a professor – first at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina and then at Wellesley College in Massachusetts - where she would continue her research into flame spectrometry while moulding the minds of other doctoral students.

In her basement lab, she also focused her attentions on electromagnetic radiation and atomic and molecular spectroscopy, before later taking on a research position at Duke University.

Kohn, a pioneer in her field, died in 1964 at the age of 77. While her findings in the field of physics are no longer used, her dedication is remembered years later.

Independent News Service

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