Nobel Prize Award for Chemistry 1936 - 1945

About the winners of the Nobel Prize for chemistry from 1936 to 1945 including Butenandt, Hahn, and Debye, what they won for, as well as behind the scenes information on the decision.

1936 Peter J. W. Debye (1884-1966), American (b. Holland). Work: Studied molecular structure by investigations on dipole moments and on diffraction of X rays and electrons in gases.

1937 Walter N. Haworth (1883-1950), British. Work: Researched carbohydrates and vitamin C.

Paul Karrer (1889-1971), Swiss (b. Russia). Work: Researched carotinoids, flavins, and vitamins A and B.

1938 Richard Kuhn (1900-1967), Austrian. Work: Researched carotinoids and vitamins.

Behind the Award--Kuhn was forbidden by Hitler to accept the award.

1939 Adolf F. J. Butenandt (1903- ), German. Work: Studied the chemistry of sex hormones, isolated and named the male sex hormone, androsterone.

Leopold Ruzicka (1887- ), Swiss (b. Yugoslavia). Work: Researches on poly-methylenes and higher terpenes.

Behind the Award--The Swiss professor from Zurich appeared in Stockholm for the December ceremonies. The German, Butenandt, formally notified the Academy that, in accordance with the German national policy established by Adolf Hitler, ??he would not accept the award. Ten months later, on October 1, the prize money reverted to the general Nobel Foundation fund when Butenandt did not appear to claim it. In 1948, after the Third Reich had been defeated in W.W. II, both Butenandt and Richard Kuhn, the chemistry winner for 1938 who had also declined his award, wrote to the Academy, expressing regret for their refusals, made under threat of violence. The Academy by then could do nothing about the forfeited prize money, but, by special decree, it awarded the 2 Germans their diplomas and gold medals in July, 1949.

1940 No Award

1941 No Award

1942 No Award

1943 Georg von Hevesy (1885-1966), Hungarian. Work: Used isotopes as tracer elements in researches on chemical processes.

1944 Otto Hahn (1879-1968), German. Work: Discovered the fissionability of uranium and other heavy atomic nuclei elements.

Behind the Award--The $34,000 prize was awarded to Hahn while he was being held in military custody by the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946. Otto Hahn had continued his experiments under Hitler and in April, 1946, after his release by the U.S., he became the president of Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft, the highest scientific position in postwar Germany. Because his inability to claim his prize money within the one-year rule had not been of his own choosing, the King of Sweden interceded on his behalf and the requirement was waived. The neutral Swedes overlooked his Nazi associations in favor of his great contribution to science. Insisted one Nobel judge: "Dr. Hahn is the true father of the atomic bomb. He discovered it long before the Americans, and he alone deserved the recognition and the prize."

1945 Artturi I. Virtanen (1895-1973), Finnish. Work: Researches and inventions in agricultural chemistry, and especially in the area of fodder preservation.

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