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Walter Kohn

Walter KohnAKA Walter Samuel Gerst Kohn

Born: 9-Mar-1923
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Density-functional theory

Military service: Canadian Army (Infantry Corps, 1944-45)

The parents of condensed matter theorist Walter Kohn were killed in Hitler's Holocaust, after they sent their teenaged son to safety in England. Because of his German passport, however, young Kohn was held in internment camps as World War II raged, first on the Isle of Man and later in Canada. He later studied at the University of Toronto, and came to America to find work as a physicist.

In 1964 he developed density-functional theory in quantum chemistry, superseding previous theorems that required data on the motion of every individual electron in a molecule in order to determine the bonding in atoms and for mapping chemical reactions, and instead showed that reliable conclusions can be reached without this data provided that the average number of electrons at a specific location is known. With the new generation of more powerful computers, his density-functional theory has been invaluable in research into the electronic structure of materials, and allowed the complicated mathematics of quantum mechanics to be applied the study of chemical bonding between atoms. Kohn won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (shared with John A. Pople) in 1998.

Father: Salomon Kohn (print shop owner, d. Auschwitz)
Mother: Gittel Kohn (d. Auschwitz)
Son: Minna Kohn
Wife: Lois Kohn
Wife: Mara Schiff (m. 19-Jun-1955, three children)
Daughter: Sharon Ruth
Son: Martin Steven
Son: Thomas David

    High School: Akademisches Gymnasium, Vienna, Austria (attended, 1933-38)
    High School: Zwi Perez Chajes Gymnasium, Vienna, Austria (attended, 1938)
    High School: East Grinstead County School, Sussex, England (1939)
    University: BA Mathematics and Physics, University of Toronto (1945)
    University: MA Applied Mathematics, University of Toronto (1946)
    University: PhD Physics, Harvard University (1948)
    Lecturer: Physics, Harvard University (1948-50)
    Teacher: Physics, Carnegie Mellon University (1950-51)
    Teacher: Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen (1951-52)
    Teacher: Physics, Carnegie Mellon University (1952-58)
    Professor: Physics, Carnegie Mellon University (1958-60)
    Professor: Physics, University of California at San Diego (1960-79)
    Professor: Physics, University of California at Santa Barbara (1979-91)
    Administrator: Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of California at Santa Barbara (1979-84)
    Professor: Emeritus, University of California at Santa Barbara (1991-)

    APS Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize 1960
    Guggenheim Fellowship 1963
    APS Davisson-Germer Prize in Atomic or Surface Physics 1977
    National Medal of Science 1988
    QMBT Eugene Feenberg Medal 1991
    Niels Bohr Gold Medal 1998
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1998 (with John A. Pople)
    IBM Consultant (1978)
    General Atomic Consultant (1960-72)
    Bell Laboratories Consultant (1953-66)
    Westinghouse Consultant (1953-57)
    Koulomzine Geophysicist (1944-46)
    Sutton & Horsley Pty Ltd Physicist (1941-43)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1963
    American Philosophical Society 1994
    Bavarian Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 2003
    Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation
    International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science 1991
    National Academy of Sciences 1969
    National Research Council Fellowship, 1950-51
    National Science Foundation Fellowship, 1958
    National Science Foundation Fellowship, 1967
    Royal Society Foreign Member, 1998
    Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
    Austrian Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry
    Naturalized Canadian Citizen 1943
    Naturalized US Citizen 1957
    Risk Factors: Meningitis


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