Herzberg, Luise Hedwig

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Herzberg, Luise Hedwig

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  • Oettinger, Luise Hedwig

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Luise Hedwig Herzberg, nee Oettinger, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, on 22 November 1906. She attended the Civic High School for Girls in Nuremburg, graduating in 1925; and may have taken a year off (possibly with relatives in Texas) prior to beginning university in 1926. She studied mechanical engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Munich prior to attending the University of Göttingen. She took one year of study at the University of Texas (Austin) prior to returning to Göttingen, where she met her future husband, Gerhard Herzberg. They married in Nuremburg on 30 December 1929. She joined Gerhard in his laboratory in Bristol, England, where she began her PhD research on the spectrum and structure of beryllium oxide (BeO). She continued her studies in Darmstadt, when the couple returned to Germany in November 1930. For various reasons, her PhD examination was conducted through the University of Frankfurt; Luise received her doctorate on 29 May 1933. She was quite possibly the last Jew to receive a PhD from Frankfurt before the war; the Nazis had come to power that January. The Herzbergs left Germany in 1935, and Gerhard accepted a position at the University of Saskatchewan. Despite the birth of their two children and the majority of her time taking care of their household, Luise was able to continue with some scientific work (although not as a faculty member). In 1945 Gerhard accepted a position with the University of Chicago (at their observatory in Wisconsin); Luise was a “volunteer research associate.” In 1948, the family moved to Ottawa, where Gerhard had accepted a position with the National Research Council. Once again, Luise served as a “volunteer research associate.” By 1952 she had a summer position with the Dominion Observatory; in 1958 this became a full-time position. The final twelve years of her working career (beginning in 1959) were spent at the Radio Physics Laboratory at Shirley Bay. Luise died in Ottawa on 3 June 1971, just prior to her planned retirement and five months before her husband, Gerhard, was awarded the Nobel Prize. Their son Paul noted that not only had “Gerhard ... won the Nobel Prize with Luise’s constant support,” two of Luise’s colleagues independently suggested that “given the opportunity, Luise might have exceeded Gerhard’s accomplishments and may also have won a Nobel Prize. Such is the high esteem in which Luise was held.”


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Herzberg, Gerhard (1904-1999)

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