Nobel Prize won by Walter Kohn, Kindertransport survivor to be auctioned

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Nobel Prize won by Walter Kohn, Kindertransport survivor to be auctioned
Walter Kohn with his family in Vienna in circa mid-1930's.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Nobel Prize in Chemistry won by Walter Kohn in 1998, unique not only for the scientific impact of Kohn's work, but also for his life experience as one of the children rescued from Nazi-occupied territories in World War II through the Kindertransport program will be auctioned by Nate D. Sanders Auctions on January 27, 2022.

Kindertransport was established by the United Kingdom in 1938 immediately after the "Night of Broken Glass" pogrom in Germany, authorizing the safe passage of almost 10,000 children into the UK. The children were placed in homes throughout the British Empire, with Kohn ultimately placed in a home in Canada. Kohn and his sister Minna survived, but their parents perished in the Holocaust. In addition to his Nobel Prize, the lot includes three science books that Kohn purchased at the temporary internment camp in Canada, all still housed in their well-worn homemade dust jackets: "A Course of Pure Mathematics," "Dent's Modern Science Series," and "Properties of Matter."

The books are a foreshadowing to the incredible achievements that Kohn made to the world through his Nobel Prize winning work. As the architect of density functional theory (DFT), Kohn devised the computational quantum mechanical modelling system that has allowed scientists to understand the nuclear structure of microscopic matter. Though the underlying structure of NFT is complex, the actual equations are now commonplace among scientists, with countless practical results from discovering trace impurities in chemicals, to modeling planetary systems.

Auction owner Nate Sanders said, “To think what would have been lost to the world had Walter Kohn not made it to the UK during WWII is incomprehensible. This Nobel Prize is not only a testament to the knowledge that mankind is capable of, but also to its humanity.”

Kohn was born in 1923 in Vienna. After being transported to Canada, he enrolled in the University of Toronto and studied applied mathematics. He earned a PhD from Harvard in Physics. Kohn was a research professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara and was the founding director of the campus’s Institute for Theoretical Physics, now KITP. He also taught at the University of California San Diego from 1960-1979. He died in 2016 at the age of 93.

The Nobel’s image and the engraving ''Sveriges Riksbank Till Alfred Nobels Minne 1998” are on one side. The medal’s reverse side features a relief of a woman representing the Genius of Medicine, holding a book in her lap, as she collects water to nourish a girl. Encircling the medal are the words ''INVENTAS VITAM JUVAT EXCOLUISSE PER ARTES,’’ which translates from Latin to ''The benefits of improved life through discovered arts.'' Kohn's name and 1998 in Roman numerals are engraved on a plaque.

Bidding on the Nobel Prize medal begins at $275,000.

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