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The Svedberg

The SvedbergAKA Theodor H. E. Svedberg

Born: 30-Aug-1884
Birthplace: Fleräng, Sweden
Died: 25-Feb-1971
Location of death: Örebro, Sweden
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Ljusnarsberg Cemetery, Örebro, Sweden

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Chemist, Inventor

Nationality: Sweden
Executive summary: Inventor of the ultracentrifuge

Swedish physical chemist Theodor "The" Svedberg studied the chemistry, distribution, light absorption and sedimentation of colloids and molecular compounds. In 1923 he invented the analytical ultracentrifuge, a high-speed centrifuge used to determine the relative molecular masses of large molecules in high polymers and proteins. With this machine he determined the molecular weights of numerous highly complex proteins. In his 1908 doctoral thesis, he laid out a new way to produce colloid particles and offered evidence supporting Albert Einstein's theory on Brownian movements and the existence of molecules. He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1926.

Working with his research assistant Arne Tiselius, Svedberg developed electrophoresis (a method of separating substances, especially proteins, and analyzing molecular structure) between 1930-37. He also studied nuclear chemistry, photographic processing, and radiation biology, and he is the namesake of the Svedberg unit (S), a measure of sedimentation coefficients.

Beyond the realm of his specific scientific work, he is also remembered as a leading proponent for a notion then considered controversial, that government should financially support scientific research, in order to protect the state's interests and remain independent from industry control and demands. In the 1940s he was a co-founder of the first Swedish governmental research councils for technology and natural science.

Father: Elias Svedberg (factory manager)
Mother: Augusta Alstermark
Wife: Andrea Andreen (physician, m. 1909, two children)
Wife: Jane Frodi (m. 1916, four children)
Wife: Ingrid Blomquist (m. 1938, three children)
Wife: Margit Hallén (m. 1948, three children)

    High School: Örebro High School, Örebro, Sweden (attended)
    High School: Gothenburg Modern School, Gothenburg, Sweden (1903)
    University: BA, University of Uppsala (1905)
    University: MA, University of Uppsala (1907)
    University: PhD, University of Uppsala (1908)
    Lecturer: University of Uppsala (1909-12)
    Professor: University of Uppsala (1912-49)
    Administrator: Gustaf Werners Institute for Nuclear Chemistry (1949-67)

    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1926
    John Ericsson Medal 1942
    Berzelius Medal of the Royal Swedish Academy 1944
    Benjamin Franklin Medal 1949 (by the Franklin Institute)
    American Philosophical Society Foreign Member
    British Chemical Society Foreign Member
    Indian Academy of Sciences Foreign Fellow
    National Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    New York Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    Royal Society Foreign Member
    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
    Swedish Ancestry

Author of books:
Methoden zur Herstellung Kolloider Lösungen Anorganischer Stoffe (Methods for Preparing Colloidal Solutions of Inorganic Substances) (1909, non-fiction)
Die Existenz der Moleküle (The Existence of Molecules) (1912, non-fiction)
Kolloid-Chemie (Colloid Chemistry) (1914, non-fiction)
Arbetets Dekadens (Work Decadence) (1915, essays)
Forskning och Industri (Research and Industry) (1918, essays)
Die Bildung von Kolloiden (The Formation of Colloids) (1921, non-fiction)
The Ultracentrifuge (1940, non-fiction; with Kai Pederson)
The Svedberg (1945, memoir)


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