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by Jutta Zipfel (MPI Mainz) and Andreas Pack (CRPG/CNRS Nancy)

The Paneth-Kolloquium 2005 will be held from October 12.–14. in the historic Klösterle in the medieval town of Nördlingen in southern Germany. Nördlingen is situated in the center of the Nördlinger Ries meteorite impact crater. For more information about F.A. Paneth, see (PDF-file, 128 kByte).

For detailed information, see the Paneth-Kolloqium 2005 website.

Mainz & Nancy, April 29, 2005.

Browse the map in the people & institutions section to find people and cosmochemistry groups.

Cosmochemistry: quo vadis?

by Günter W. Lugmair (MPI Mainz)

Cosmochemistry as a field of science was founded by the Nobel laureate H. C. Urey after World War II. In the early days it dealt with the chemical composition of our sun and the chemical evolution and composition of planets. Over the years it has evolved into a true interdisciplinary discipline including areas such as chemistry, mineralogy and petrology, subsets of physics including dynamical processes (ranging from planetary systems formation to cratering dynamics), nuclear astrophysics, astronomy and so forth. Cosmochemistry is a very lively field. Enthusiasm for this field of science is rapidly growing all over the world. The steadily increasing attendance at international conferences clearly testifies to this fact.

Germany, and in particular the Cosmochemistry Department, MPI Mainz Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, was one of the earliest locations in Europe, where this discipline was already established in the 50's. It became somewhat of a center for Cosmochemistry in Europe, which over the years played host to legions of international visitors and guest scientists. Although Cosmochemistry at this institution will come to a close as an independent field in the near future, it is very much hoped that the enthusiasm for this discipline will further spread in Germany, as it does all over the world. But if Germany wishes to remain at the leading edge in this area of science then enthusiastic and bright young scientists alone will not be sufficient – adequate political and financial support will be of paramount importance.

Mainz, April 2004

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Who was Friedrich Adolph Paneth?

by Silke Merchel

F.A. Paneth was born on the 31st of August 1887 in Vienna. After studying at the universities of Vienna, Munich and Glasgow, F. A. Paneth received his Ph.D. in 1910 at the Institut für Radiumforschung in Vienna.

He was forced to leave Germany as one of the first scientists in 1933. In the year 1939 he became professor and director of the Chemical Institutes of the University of Durham. In summer 1953 he returned to Germany as director of the Chemistry Department of the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry Mainz.

His work on isotopes made him think - and of course publish numerous articles - about the concept of chemical elements including the meaning of the periodic table and suggested to D. Coster and G. v. Hevesy to search for hafnium in natural zircon, which led to the element's discovery in 1923.

F. A. Paneth was famous for his brilliant talks. His papers can be found in the Österreichische Chemiker-Zeitung (Heft 21/22, 1958). F. A. Paneth was one of the founders and original editors of Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta starting in 1950.

Although fusion was not known these days, he predicted together with Kurt Peters that the sun produced its energy this way. They even reported the transformation of hydrogen into helium by spontaneous nuclear catalysis at room temperature and normal pressure. The so-called cold fusion was “rediscovered” more than 60 years later by Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann. However, shortly after their announcements both teams had to declare their results to be false. The amount of helium, Paneth and Peters had measured, was due to contamination from air. F. A. Paneth measured traces of helium (originating from uranium decay) in rocks to set ages of (extra-) terrestrial materials, which was an important step towards determining the age of the solar system. Unfortunately, this project was hindered by inaccurate methods for measuring uranium and tho-rium concentrations, which are also needed.

Paneth and his co-workers in Durham could experimentally prove the theory of C. A. Bauer that cosmic rays induce spallation reactions leading (not only) to helium. They measured the first helium depth profile in a meteorite.

Only about five years after becoming director of the Max-Planck Institut in Mainz, F. A. Paneth died unexpectedly on the 17th of September 1958 at the age of 72.

[ read full article, PDF file, 128 kByte]