HILDE LEVI (9 May 1909 – 26 July 2003) was a German-Danish
physicist . She was a pioneer of the use of radioactive isotopes in
biology and medicine , notably the techniques of radiocarbon dating
and autoradiography . In later life she became a scientific historian,
and published a biography of
George de Hevesy
George de Hevesy .
Born into a non-religious Jewish family in
Frankfurt , Germany, Levi
University of Munich
University of Munich in 1929. She carried out her doctoral
studies at the
Kaiser Wilhelm Institute
Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and
Electrochemistry at Berlin-Dahlem , writing her thesis on the spectra
of alkali metal halides under the supervision of Peter Pringsheim
Fritz Haber . By the time she completed it in 1934, the Nazi
Party had been elected to office in Germany, and Jews were no longer
allowed to be hired for academic positions. She went to
she found a position at the
Niels Bohr Institute
Niels Bohr Institute of Theoretical
Physics at the University of
Copenhagen . Working with James Franck
and George de Hevesy, she published a number of papers on the use of
radioactive substances in biology.
When the Nazis began rounding up Danish Jews in September 1943, Levi
fled to Sweden, where she worked for the biologist John Runnström at
the Wenner-Gren Institute for Experimental
Biology in Stockholm. After
the war ended, she returned to
Denmark to work at the Zoophysiological
Laboratory in Copenhagen. She spent the 1947–48 academic year in the
United States learning about the recently discovered techniques of
radiocarbon dating and autoradiography, which she introduced to
Europe. She retired from the Zoophysiological Laboratory in 1979, but
became involved with the
Niels Bohr Archive, where she collected
papers of de Hevesy, eventually publishing his biography.
* 1 Early life
* 2 Nazi period
* 3 Later life
* 4 Notes
* 5 References
Hilde Levi was born in
Frankfurt , Germany, on 9 May 1909, the
daughter of Adolf Levi, the sales director of a metal company, and his
wife Clara (née Reis), the daughter of a printer. Hilde had an older
brother called Edwin. She was a gifted musician who learned to play
the piano at a young age. During the summers, she would listen to
performances at her cousins' summer house in Bavaria by musicians
Elisabeth Schumann and
Richard Strauss .
Although Jewish, Levi's family did not practise their religion, and
were not part of the Jewish community, but when she was enrolled at
the Victoria School (now the Bettina School) in Frankfurt, her
religion was listed as Jewish. Religious instruction was compulsory,
so she had to attend classes with a local rabbi . She soon rebelled
against this, and told her parents that she did not wish to attend the
classes. She came to reject formal religion.
While at high school, Levi decided that she would become a scientist.
Her final year was devoted to a physics project on spectra and
photography, which became her Oberreal Abiturium. She was the only
girl in her class to major in physics that year. After her graduation
in April 1928, her father sent her to England for six months to learn
English and good manners. She entered the
University of Munich
University of Munich in
1929, where she listened to lectures by
Arnold Sommerfeld . For her
doctorate, her father managed to get her accepted into the Kaiser
Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry at
Berlin-Dahlem , where she wrote her thesis on the spectra of alkali
metal halides , under the supervision of Peter Pringsheim and Fritz
By the time Levi received her doctorate in 1934, the
Nazi Party had
been elected to office in Germany. Her supervisors had gone into
exile, and Jews were no longer allowed to be hired for academic
positions. The Danish branch of the International Federation of
University Women helped Levi find a position at the Niels Bohr
Institute of Theoretical
Physics at the University of
Niels Bohr asked
James Franck , another refugee from
Germany, if he knew Levi, and would be willing to have Levi as his
assistant. Franck replied that he did not know her personally, but he
knew her thesis, and rated it highly.
She became engaged to the physicist
Hans Bethe in 1934. The two had
known each other since 1925. However, his mother, although herself
Jewish, was opposed to her son marrying a Jewish girl, and he broke
off the engagement a few days before the wedding was to take place.
Bethe's action shocked Franck and Bohr. Although an eminent physicist,
Bethe would not be invited to visit the
Niels Bohr Institute
Niels Bohr Institute until
after the Second World War. Levi never married, but became friends
with many of the physicists who did visit the Institute, including
Otto Frisch ,
George Placzek ,
Rudolf Peierls ,
Leon Rosenfeld ,
Edward Teller and
Victor Weisskopf .
Levi worked as Franck's assistant, publishing two papers with him on
the fluorescence of chlorophyll , until he left
Denmark for the United
States in 1935. She then became assistant to the Hungarian physical
George de Hevesy
George de Hevesy . The recent discovery of induced
radioactivity and the consequent creation of short-lived radioactive
isotopes opened up a number of new uses for radioactive substances in
biology which she explored with de Hevesy, publishing a number of
papers with him. The
University of Berlin
University of Berlin cancelled Levi's doctorate
in 1938. In April 1940, the Germans occupied Denmark. When the Nazis
began rounding up Danish Jews in September 1943, Levi was one of the
thousands of Jews who fled to Sweden. For the rest of the war she
worked for the biologist John Runnström at the Wenner-Gren Institute
Biology in Stockholm.
When the war ended, de Hevesy elected to stay in Sweden, and Bohr
decided to drop biological research at the Institute and return to
concentrating on physics. Levi accepted a position at the
Zoophysiological Laboratory in Copenhagen, under
August Krogh , who,
like Bohr, had won a
Nobel Prize . She spent the 1947–48 academic
year in the United States as a Fellow of the American Association of
University Women . While there, she learned from
Willard Libby at the
University of Chicago
University of Chicago about his recently discovered technique of
radiocarbon dating . She developed the new technique of
autoradiography while working for the United States Atomic Energy
Commission at the
University of Rochester
University of Rochester in
Rochester, New York
Rochester, New York .
On returning to Denmark, she worked with the National Museum of
Copenhagen to develop radiocarbon dating equipment. This
was put to the test in 1951, dating the
Grauballe Man .
Autoradiography was then used by the Finsen Institute to investigate
the effects of the radiocontrast agent thorotrast . Levi was a
consultant at the Danish National Board of Health from 1952 to 1970.
Levi retired from the Zoophysiological Laboratory in 1979, but became
involved with the
Niels Bohr Archive, where she collected papers from
de Hevesy. The result of this work was a biography of Hevesy, which
was published in 1985. That year she organised the Niels Bohr
Centennial Exhibition at the
Copenhagen Town Hall. In 2001 she was
honoured by Humboldt University of Berlin, along with other students
who had been dismissed in 1933. She died in
Copenhagen on 26 July
* ^ A B C D E F G H I Vogt, Annette B. (2005). "Hilde Levi". Jewish
Women's Archive. Retrieved 1 March 2003.
* ^ A B Schweber 2012 , p. 267.
* ^ Schweber 2012 , p. 269.
* ^ A B C Schweber 2012 , pp. 271–275.
* ^ A B Schweber 2012 , p. 276.
* ^ Schweber 2012 , pp. 70–75.
* ^ Schweber 2012 , p. 279.
* ^ Pais 1991 , p. 386.
* ^ Franck, J. ; Levi, Hilde (1935). "Zum Mechanismus der
Sauerstoff-Aktivierung durch fluoreszenzfähige Farbstoffe" .
Naturwissenschaften (in German). 23 (14): 229–230. Bibcode
:1935NW.....23..229F. doi :10.1007/BF01497533 . ISSN 0028-1042 .
* ^ Franck, J. ; Levi, Hilde (1935). "Beitrag zur Untersuchung der
Fluoreszenz in Flüssigkeiten" . Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie
(in German). B27: 409–420. ISSN 0942-9352 .
* ^ Schweber 2012 , p. 277.
* ^ Levi, Hilde; Boyd, George A. (20 January 1950). "Carbon 14 Beta
Track Autoradiography". Science . 111 (2873): 58–59. Bibcode
:1950Sci...111...58B. doi :10.1126/science.111.2873.58 .
* ^ Aaserud, Finn (August 2003). "Hilde Levi: Obituary August
Niels Bohr Archive. Archived from the original on 28 April
2004. Retrieved 1 March 2003.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to HILDE LEVI (PHYSICIST) .
* Pais, Abraham (1991). Niels Bohr's Times, In Physics, Philosophy
and Polity. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-852049-8 .
* Schweber, Silvan S. (2012). Nuclear Forces: The Making of the
Physicist Hans Bethe. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University
Press. ISBN 0-674-06587-5 .
OCLC 758383322 .
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