26 November: Tribute to Hedwig Kohn

OV Digital Desk
3 Min Read
Hedwig Kohn

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Hedwig Kohn (5 April 1887 – 26 November 1964) was a physicist who was one of only three women to obtain habilitation (the qualification for university teaching) in physics in Germany before World War II.

Life and Career

She was born on 5 April 1887, in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland).

Kohn studied physics at the University of Breslau, where she earned her doctorate in 1913. She went on to work as an assistant at the University of Gottingen and the University of Munich. However, her career was interrupted by the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, and she was dismissed from her academic positions in 1933 due to her Jewish heritage.

After being forced to flee Germany, Kohn immigrated to the United States in 1940. She continued her research at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina and Duke University, where she worked as a physics instructor until her retirement in 1952.

Kohn made significant contributions to the field of spectroscopy, particularly in the area of electron scattering. She conducted experiments to determine the wavelengths of light emitted by various elements, and her work was instrumental in the development of the periodic table.

Despite her accomplishments, Kohn faced significant obstacles as a female physicist in a male-dominated field, and as a Jewish scientist during a time of anti-Semitic persecution in Germany. However, she persisted in her work and made important contributions to the field of physics.

Kohn passed away on 26 November 1964, in Durham, North Carolina. She is remembered as a trailblazing physicist and a symbol of resilience in the face of adversity.

Award and Legacy

Hedwig Kohn’s contributions to the field of physics were recognized and celebrated during her lifetime and continue to inspire future generations of scientists.

Kohn’s work in spectroscopy has had a lasting impact on the field of physics, particularly in the area of electron scattering. Her research and discoveries have contributed to our understanding of the nature of matter and the behavior of atoms and molecules.

In addition to her scientific contributions, Kohn is remembered as a trailblazer for women in physics. Despite facing significant obstacles and discrimination, she persisted in her work and made important contributions to the field. Her determination and resilience continue to inspire women and other underrepresented groups in STEM fields.

On 4 April 2019, Google celebrated Hedwig Kohn’s 132nd Birthday with a doodle.

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