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Hilde Levi

German physicist

Died when: 94 years 78 days
Star Sign: Taurus


Hilde Levi 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. Born into a non-religious Jewish family in Frankfurt, Germany, Levi entered the University of Munich in 1929. She carried out her doctoral studies at the 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 and 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 Denmark where she found a position at the 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.
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