Dr Georg von Békésy


Dr Georg von Békésy Famous memorial

Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
Death 13 Jun 1972 (aged 73)
Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, USA
Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea
Memorial ID 114365828 View Source

Nobel Prize Recipient. Georg von Békésy, a Hungarian-born American physicist and physiologist, received worldwide notoriety after being awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. According to the Nobel Prize committee, he received this coveted award "for his discoveries of the physical mechanism of stimulation within the cochlea." He received six nominations for the Nobel candidacy with the first five being in physics. In research over a twenty-year period, he clarified how processes in the cochlea in the inner ear proceed, in part by studying vibrations in membranes with the help of a microscope and sequences of photographs as well as by measuring variations in electrical charges in the receptors. Born the oldest of three children of a diplomat, he received his early education in Munich, Constantinople, Budapest, and after relocating to Switzerland, in a private school in Zurich before he studied chemistry at the University of Berne. After a short military service, he received his Ph.D. in Physics in 1923 from the University of Budapest with the thesis "Fast way of determining molecular weight." As director of the Hungarian Telephone System Research Laboratory from 1923 to 1943, he worked on problems of long-distance communication, becoming interested in human auditory mechanics. Conducting intensive research at the University of Budapest from 1939 to 1946, the Stockholm's Karolinska Institute in Sweden from 1946 to 1947, and in the United States at Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory at Harvard University from 1947 to 1966, his research led to the construction of two cochlea models and highly sensitive instruments. These instruments made it possible to understand the hearing process, differentiate between certain forms of deafness, and select proper treatment more accurately. This could diagnose a damage 8th cranial nerve. After his Harvard laboratory was destroyed by fire in 1965, he became professor of sensory sciences at the University of Hawaii in 1966. His books include "Experiments in Hearing" in 1960 and "Sensory Inhibition" in 1967. Besides the Nobel Prize, he was honored to receive the Denker Prize in Otology in 1931, the Leibnitz Medal of the Berlin Academy of Sciences in 1937, the Guyot Prize for Speech and Otology of Groningen University in 1939, the Academy Award of the Budapest Academy of Science in 1946, the Shambaugh Prize in Otology in 1950, the Howard Crosby Warren Medal of the Society of Experimental Psychologists in 1955, and the Gold Medals of the American Otological Society in 1957. He was made a member of the Acoustical Society of America in 1961 and the Germany Academy Leopoldina in 1962. He received Honorary doctorates of medicine from the Universities of Munster in 1955 and Berne in 1959. His younger brother, Dr. Miklós Békésy became a noted agrobiologist receiving the Hungarian State Award, the Kossuth Prize, for his soil research. Throughout his career, he had only one post-doctoral student. As a person who enjoyed solitude, he never married. Upon his death, his vast collection of art from ancient Far East to Renaissance Europe was bequeathed to the Nobel Foundation.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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