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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 51, December 17, 2006, Article 30

INTERESTING NOBEL PRIZE MEDAL LORE

This year's Nobel Prize awards prompted an item in last week's E-Sylum.
There are some additional interesting stories relating to the Nobel
medals - here are a couple:

"On all "Swedish" Nobel medals the name of the Laureate is engraved
fully visible on a plate on the reverse, whereas the name of the Peace
Laureate as well as that of the Winner for the Economics Prize is
engraved on the edge of the medal, which is less obvious. For the
1975 Economics Prize winners, the Russian Leonid Kantorovich and the
American Tjalling Koopmans, this created problems. Their medals were
mixed up in Stockholm, and after the Nobel Week the Prize Winners went
back to their respective countries with the wrong medals. As this
happened during the Cold War, it took four years of diplomatic efforts
to have the medals exchanged to their rightful owners."

[Unless you're a Nobel Laureate, I wouldn't recommend the storage
procedures used at Niels Bohr's Institute of Theoretical Physics in
Copenhagen during World War II.  The Institute had been a refuge for
German Jewish physicists since 1933.  -Editor]

"Max von Laue and James Franck had deposited their medals there to
keep them from being confiscated by the German authorities. After the
occupation of Denmark in April 1940, the medals were Bohr's first
concern, according to the Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy (also of
Jewish origin and a 1943 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry), who worked at
the institute.

In Hitler's Germany it was almost a capital offense to send gold out
of the country. Since the names of the Laureates were engraved on the
medals, their discovery by the invading forces would have had very
serious consequences.

To quote George de Hevesy (Adventures in Radioisotope Research,
Vol. 1, p. 27, Pergamon, New York, 1962), who talks about von Laue's
medal: "I suggested that we should bury the medal, but Bohr did not
like this idea as the medal might be unearthed. I decided to dissolve it.

While the invading forces marched in the streets of Copenhagen, I
was busy dissolving Laue's and also James Franck's medals. After the
war, the gold was recovered and the Nobel Foundation generously
presented Laue and Frank with new Nobel medals."

"de Hevesy wrote to von Laue after the war that the task of dissolving
the medals had not been easy, as gold is "exceedingly unreactive and
difficult to dissolve." The Nazis occupied Bohr's institute and searched
it very carefully but they did not find anything. The medals quietly
waited out the war in a solution of aqua regia."

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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