Monday, January 13, 2014

A prize for Max von Laue

In my book Serving the Reich, I make some remarks about the potential pitfalls of naming institutions, prizes and so forth after “great” scientists, and I say that, while my three main subjects Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg and Peter Debye are commemorated in this way, Max von Laue is not (“to my knowledge”). This seemed ironic, given that during the Nazi era Laue much more obviously and courageously resisted the regime than did these others.

Crystallographer Udo Heinemann of the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine in Berlin has pointed out to me that a Max von Laue prize does in fact exist. It is awarded by the German Crystallographic Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kristallographie, DGK) annually to junior scientists for “outstanding work in the field of crystallography in the broadest sense”, and is worth 1500 euros. I have discussed elsewhere the perils of this “name game”, but given that everyone plays it, I am pleased to see that Laue has not been overlooked. It seems all the more fitting to have this pointed out during the International Year of Crystallography.

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