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Fathers and Sons (and Daughters!)

Detail from a chemistry-themed necktie, CHF Collections.

For the chem dad in your life: detail from a chemistry-themed necktie. CHF Collections.

Science is often a family business. There have been six Nobel Prize-winning fathers and sons in the award’s history – all in science disciplines. Most recently, Roger Kornberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2006 for his studies of the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription. His father Arthur shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1959 for work on the biological synthesis of RNA and DNA.  

The Nobel Prize in Physics, for whatever reason, is rife with father and son accomplishments: Aage N. Bohr’s 1975 prize followed father Niels’ in 1922; the honor also went to Hans von Euler-Chelpin (1929) and Ulf von Euler (1970), Manne Siegbahn (1924) and Kai M. Siegbahn (1981), and J.J. Thomson (1906) and George Paget Thomson (1937). Then, of course, there is the ultimate father/son team: William Henry Bragg and his son William Lawrence Bragg, who were awarded the 1915 prize for their work on crystallography. Notable too is the Nobel’s lone father and daughter duo: Pierre Curie, who shared the 1903 prize in Physics, and Irène Joliot-Curie, who shared the 1935 prize in Chemistry. (Irène’s mother might have made an accomplishment or two in her career as well.) Clearly, there is something in the genes.

No one in my family has this kind of hardware decorating the mantel in the living room, I must admit.  But I am looking forward nonetheless to a belated Father’s Day dinner with my pharmacist and former chemistry teacher dad, who built his career around chemistry and who has always had a passion for history. I guess I’m pretty much a chip off the ol’ block.

Gigi Naglak is Outreach Coordinator at CHF’s Eddleman Institute.

Related:
Irène Joliot-Curie [CHF]
The Parent Trap [nobelprize.org]

Posted In: History

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