Friedrich Adolf Paneth

Friedrich Adolf Paneth

Paneth, Friedrich Adolf, 1887-1958, Austrian chemist. He was educated at Vienna, Munich, and Glasgow. He held a number of teaching posts in Germany until he was forced into exile in England in 1933. After World War II he returned to Germany as director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry at Mainz. Among Paneth's contributions to the study of radioactivity was the demonstration that lead and radium-D, a product of the radioactive decay of radium, are chemically inseparable, a fact which led him to develop, with Georg von Hevesy, the technique of isotopic labeling (see isotope). Their work laid the foundation of modern radioactive tracer techniques.
Friedrich Adolf Paneth (August 31, 1887, Vienna - September 17, 1958) was an Austrian-born British chemist. Fleeing the Nazis, he escaped to Britain and became a British citizen in 1939 but returned as director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in 1953.

Life and Education

Friedrich Adolf Paneth was born as son of the physiologist Joseph Paneth. He and his three bothers were brought up in protestant faith although both parents were of Jewish descent. He was educated in the Schotten gymnasium a renowned school in Vienna. He studied chemistry at the University of Vienna and after working with Adolf von Baeyer at the University of Munich he received his PhD with Zdenko Hans Skraup at the organic chemistry department of the University of Vienna in 1910.

He abandoned organic chemistry and joined the radiochemistry group of Stefan Meyer. In 1913 he visited Frederick Soddy at the University of Glasgow and Ernest Rutherford at the [University of Manchester]]. In this year he married Else Hartmann, they had a son and daughter. After his habilitation in 1913 he became assistant of Otto Hönigschmid at the University of Prague. From 1919 till 1933 he was professor in various German universities. (University of Hamburg 1919, Berlin University 1922, Königsberg University 1929). In 1927 he published his results on the transformation of hydrogen to helium, now known as Cold fusion.

During Hitlers Machtergreifung in 1933 he was on a lecture tour in England and did not return to Germany. In 1939 he became professor at the University of Durham where he staid until his retirement in 1953.

A call to become director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz made him return to Germany. He worked in the Institute until his death in 1958.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1947. The mineral Panethite is named after him.


He was considered the greatest authority of his time on volatile hydrides, and also made important contributions to the study of the stratosphere.

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