Gerhard Herzberg

Physical Chemistry

Won the 1971 Nobel Prize in chemistry for using spectroscopy to discover the internal geometry and energy states in simple molecules, and in particular the structure and characteristics of free radicals.

"You shouldn’t do science just to improve wealth — do science for the sake of human culture and knowledge. There must be some purpose in life that is higher than just surviving."

December 25, 1904

Hamburg, Germany

Date of Death
March 4, 1999

Place of Death
Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa, Ontario

Family Members
  • Father: Albin H. Herzberg
  • Mother: Ella Biber
  • Children: Paul and Agnes
  • Spouse: Monika Tenthoff

Jovial, modest

Favorite Music
Mozart’s Quartet for Flute, Violin, Viola, and Cello

Other Interests
Singing, music, mountain hiking.

Distinguished Research Scientist

Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, NRC, Ottawa


  • Diplom Ingenieur, Darmstadt Institute of Technology, Germany 1927
  • PhD, Darmstadt Institute of Technology, Germany, 1928
  • Privatdozent (post Doctorate), University of Goettingen, Germany 1929
  • Honorary degrees from universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Chicago including many others

  • Medaille de L’Université de Liege, 1950
  • Henry Marshall Tory Medal, Royal Society of Canada, 1953
  • Joy Kissen Mookerjee Gold Medal, Indian Assn. for the Cultivation of Science, 1954
  • Gold Medal, Canadian Association of Physicists, 1957
  • Medal of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy, 1959
  • Medaille de l’Université de Liege (silver), 1960
  • Medaille de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1960
  • Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Award, Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh, 1962
  • Frederic Ives Medal, Optical Society of America, 1964
  • Willard Gibbs Medal, American Chemical Society, 1969
  • Gold Medal, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, 1969
  • Faraday Medal, Chemical Society of London, 1970
  • Royal Medal, Royal Society of London, 1971
  • Linus Pauling Medal, American Chemical Society, 1971
  • Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, 1971
  • Chemical Institute of Canada Medal, 1972
  • Madison Marshall Award, American Chemical Society (North Alabama Section), 1974
  • Earle K. Plyler prize, American Physical Socie


Hans Rau, his thesis advisor at Darmstadt who inspired Herzberg to find his own problem to study, then supported his early studies of molecular spectroscopy and sent him to meet Schrödinger, the brilliant Viennese physicist.

Last Updated
March 10, 2011


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