George de Hevesy
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1943
Born: 1 August 1885, Budapest, Austria-Hungary (now Hungary)
Died: 5 July 1966, Freiburg im Breisgau, West Germany (now Germany)
Affiliation at the time of the award: Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Prize motivation: “for his work on the use of isotopes as tracers in the study of chemical processes”
George de Hevesy received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1944.
Prize share: 1/1
George de Hevesy was born in Budapest to a wealthy Christian family with Jewish heritage. After graduating from the Gymnasium of the Piarist Order, de Hevesy studied at Budapest University, Berlin Technical University, and the University of Freiburg in Breisgau. Following that, de Hevesy worked at a number of European universities. He was granted a professorship at Freiburg University in 1926, but later fled Nazism in 1934, arriving first in Copenhagen before moving on to Stockholm in 1943, where he worked at the University of Stockholm until his death. de Hevesy was married with four children.
Tracking various elements through different processes is important in understanding how organisms work. After failing to separate an isotope of radium from lead in 1913, George de Hevesy realized that lead could be marked using the isotope. Radium is radioactive, and by measuring radiation emitted from it, he could study lead's journey through different processes. De Hevesy published the first studies to use the method in 1923. The method has since come to play a key role in chemistry and biology.