On 5th April 2019, Google celebrated pioneer physicist Hedwig Kohn on what would have been her 132nd birthday. Against all odds, she became one of the only three women in STEM to teach at university level in Germany. All these she did before the second world war.
The Google doodle art to celebrate her was drawn by guest artist Carolin Löbbert. It features an arty illustration of Kohn in a laboratory measuring emission spectra. It also has atomic structures and some Erlenmeyer flasks.
Born in 1887, she obtained her doctorate in 1913 at the young age of 20. She trained under atomic physicist Rudolf Ladenburg and Otto Lummer. At age 43, in 1930 she was granted an academic award that gave her permission to teach at the university.
In 1933, Kohn was dismissed from her position at the University of Breslau because she was Jewish. Her life became potentially in danger during the second world war. With the help of Ladenburg, the American Association of University Women and the International Federation of University Women, she got a visa and a teaching position in the US. She proceeded to work at the Women’s College in northern California.
Kohn contributed immensely to the world of physics. Her invaluable input was acknowledged in a few publications on flame spectroscopy and radiometry.
She died in 1964 at the age of 77.