Biography by letter : A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0-9
Search in :
Georg von Bekesy picture, image, poster
Georg Von Bekesy

Date of birth : 1889-06-03
Date of death : 1972-06-13
Birthplace : Budapest, Hungary
Nationality : Hungarian
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-08-12

Georg von Békésy was a Hungarian biophysicist born in Budapest.

Georg von Békésy grew up in various foreign cities, including Munich, Constantinople (now Istanbul), and Zurich, as his father worked for the Hungarian Diplomatic Service. After obtaining his PhD in physics, he spent two decades working for the Hungarian Post Office, which, in addition to delivering the mail, oversaw the nation's telephone service. He was assigned research toward improving the quality of long-distance telephone calls, but instead focused his attention on the physics of sound. For his demonstration of the physical means by which sound is received and analyzed in the cochlea (the spiraling cavity of the ear), he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1961. He was the first physicist to win Nobel honors in this category. His work led to advances in ear surgery and better hearing aids.

Békésy had a sickly childhood, and even as an adult he said, "I never was too healthy". He was always skeptical of modern medicine, but acknowledged the contradiction inherent in such a stance, since he himself was a scientist involved in medical research. From his teen years until his death, whenever he was not in his classes or laboratory, he could always be found at the library. During his years with the Post Office, he obtained cadaver skulls from a friend at a local university, and he once glued tiny mirrors onto an eardrum to observe how it responded to various sounds. He frequently carried a human skull in his traveling bags, which, he said, once nearly caused his arrest when a policeman searched his possessions.

Author of books:

Experiments in Hearing (1960)
Sensory Inhibition (1967)

View the full website biography of Georg Von Bekesy.
Browsebiography computer mode