Early Life Career And Scientific Contributions

Victor Moritz Goldschmidt was born in Zurich, Switzerland, on January 27, 1888, to Heinrich J. Goldschmidt and Amelie Koehne. In 1901 Victor's father accepted a position as professor of chemistry in Kristiania (Oslo), and the family moved from Switzerland to Norway. Victor studied geology and mineralogy in Norway, completing a doctorate at age 23 in 1911, consisting of two papers, "Die Kontaktmetamorphose im Kristianiagebiet" (Contact metamorphism in the Kristiana region) and "Geolo-gisch-petrographische Studien im Hochgebirge des südlichen Norwegens" (Geologic and petrographic studies in the Hochgebirge area, southern Norway). In 1912 he was awarded Norway's most distinguished scientific award, the Fridtjof Nansen medal, for his Ph.D. research. At the same time he was made an associate professor (docent) of mineralogy and petrography at the University of Oslo. After completing his Ph.D. Goldschmidt authored a series of papers widely considered to represent the beginning of modern geochemistry and was highly influential in the fields of mineralogy, geology, crystallography, and theoretical chemistry. Some of his most important work included descriptions of the role of ionic radii in determining the geochemical behavior of the elements. He stayed in Norway at the university of Kristiania as a professor of mineralogy, then moved back to Oslo in 1935.

In 1942 while Norway was under German occupation, Europe was in a state of chaos from the Nazi occupation, and Goldschmidt was arrested on October 26, 1942, for being a Jew. He was sent to the Berg concentration camp near Tonsberg, Norway, and was almost deported to Auschwitz, but he was held in Norway on the condition that he lend his scientific expertise to help the German war effort. He fled to Sweden as soon as he could, then to England, and returned to Oslo after the war in 1945, but died at the age of 59, on March 20, 1947.

See also geochemistry; mineral, mineralogy.

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