Are there Any Slovenian Nobel Laureates?

People move nations, not vice versa. Moreover, nations are often proud of their most valuable personalities. Those are revolutionists, writers, scientists, musicians, politicians, and other people of culture. Of course, big nations have a lot of them, because the more citizens you have, the larger possibility to have an important personality among them. However, what about the small nations?

At the time being (2021), Slovenia has two Nobel laureates. Their names are Friderik (Fritz) Pregl who was born in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and Duncan Haldane who is a British person granted his Slovenian citizenship thru lineage later in time.

The Nobel Prize is one of the most famous awards of humanity. There is almost no one who has never heard about it, along with Oscar Award in cinematography or Grammy in the musical sphere. It is given only to people who showed the most outstanding contributions for mankind in the fields of physics, literature, chemistry, medicine, or physiology. Also, the fifth one, the Nobel Peace Prize, is given for the promotion of peace between nations.

The award was founded by a Swedish chemist, engineer, and industrialist, Alfred Nobel. Moreover, he is the man who invented dynamite. The Nobel Prize was established five years after his death. The ceremonies take place annually. Each recipient, also known as “laureate”, receives a diploma, a golden medal, and a sum of money. As for 2020, the award is 10,000,000 SEK, or US$1,145,000, or €968,000, or £880,000. Since the beginning of the previous century, the award has been given 603 times. Two of them were Slovenians.

Friderik (Fritz) Pregl

His name doesn’t sound very Slovene, but he also has a Slovenian one, Friderik Pregl. This happened because the boy was born to a Slovene-speaking father and German-speaking mother in Ljubljana within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, nowadays the capital of the Republic of Slovenia, in 1869.

Friderik won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1923 when he was 54. The prize was given for impressive contributions to quantitative organic microanalysis in chemistry and biology. As the scientists conducted all of his research in Austrian cities, he is often described as solely Austrian chemist in some of the Western media. However, it is not true.

To begin with, even his native language was Slovene. As his parents were not poor, and his father was working in a bank, Friderik got a quite good education. The boy was enrolled in Ljubljana’s Classical High School. The language of command was German there. That’s how he learned it and got the possibility to continue his studies in higher institutions.

As there was not any university in Ljubljana, he decided to study in one of the towns of the Habsburg Empire. The future scientists were accepted into the University of Graz. Only there Friderik opened revealed his scholar abilities. First of all, he met exact limitations that didn’t allow him to do his research properly.

That’s why Fritz started to create new methods of quantitative organic microanalysis. The main problem was that he couldn’t get enough bile acid for his experiments. Thus, he came to the new method that raised productivity almost 50 times. It reduced the amount of the acid needed for an experiment, and also, within much less time frames.

This discovery led him to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1923. The next year was successful for Frederik. First of all, his discovery became well-known around the world, and it facilitated further experiments in chemistry and medicine. Secondly, leading chemists started to move to Austria in order to study under the guidance of Fritz Pregl.

After the First World War, Ljubljana became the first Slovenian city to have a university. The newly created University of Ljubljana invited him to teach in his hometown. Unfortunately, Pregl politely declined the proposal, but he donated a lot of laboratory equipment to the faculty of chemistry.

Frederik Pregl died in 1930, in Graz, Austria. He left quite a big legacy. For example, the National Institute of Chemistry of Slovenia established the annual Pregl Awards in 2007, which is given to outstanding research of doctorates. Slovenian pupils can win Pregl Recognition Awards, whereas secondary school students are awarded the Pregl Citations prize. There is a square named after Pregl in Ljubljana. On the other hand, there is a legacy left by him in Austria as well. For instance, the University of Graz renamed the place where he worked into the Institute of Medical Chemistry and Pregl Laboratory. Some streets in Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck, and Klagenfurt were named in his honor. The Austrian Academy of Sciences established the Fritz Pregl Prize in chemistry, which has been awarded annually since 1931.

Duncan Haldane

The second Nobel laureate also has quite an interesting story. In general, Duncan Haldane is a British-born physicist, who obtains Slovenian citizenship, but lives in the United States. Currently, he is the Sherman Fairchild University Professor of Physics at Princeton University, the fourth oldest higher education school in the United States and a member of the Ivy League.

Duncan Haldane is a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2016, along with David J. Thouless and J. Michael Kosterlitz.

The future scientist was born in London in 1951, where he got prestige education, St Paul’s School, and then Christ’s College, Cambridge. There, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts, later followed by a Ph.D. degree in 1978.

After this, Haldane started to travel a lot. From 1977 to 1981, he worked as a physicist at Institut Laue–Langevin in France. In August of 1981, he got the position of assistant professor at the University of Southern California. There, he stayed for six years. In 1986, he was raised to a professor of physics and moved to the University of California, San Diego. Only in 1990 Duncan was appointed in the department of physics at Princeton University, where he stays until nowadays.

All that time, he worked on condensed matter physics, such as the theory of Luttinger liquids, the theory of fractional quantum hall effect, the theory of one-dimensional spin chains, entanglement spectra, exclusion statistics, and many others. Since 2011, Haldane has been working on the fractional quantum Hall effect that defines the “shape” of the “composite boson”. In 2016, together with two already mentioned above scientists, he received the Nobel Prize for “theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”.

During all that time, Duncan Haldane received such awards and honors as Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), the Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Fellow of the Institute of Physics, and the Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Moreover, he became a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2017.

On March 22 of 2019, Duncan Haldane received Slovenian citizenship at the Slovenian Embassy in Washington DC. In fact, the scientist is half Slovenian, as well as mentioned above Friderik Pregl. His father was a doctor in the British Army, a division of which was serving on the Yugoslavia/Austria border. There, the father of Duncan met a young medical student, Ljudmila Renko, a Slovenian. Subsequently, they married, and both moved back to England, where Duncan Haldane was born.

Great People

The Nobel Prize played an incredible role in history. It showed that science can be and shall be awarded and paid a lot. It is the thing that pushes humanity further into the future. With the help of the best scientists, maybe one day, we can cure all diseases, explore the cosmos, and come up with eternal life. However, society had to show that being a scientist is prestigious. The Nobel Prize played this role. Promoting the value of the future.

Slovenians happened to be a small nation. With a population of a bit more than 2 million, the country is one of the smallest in Europe, excluding islands and microstates. Moreover, many of those people were awarded other valuable awards except the Nobel Prize.

On the other hand, the last one is the most famous, so it was important for this blog to highlight Slovenians who received the Nobel Prize. Furthermore, there are discussions about them, even today. The first one was Friderik (Fritz) Pregl, a half Slovenian who worked and lived most of his life in Austria. He contributed to chemistry, the new research method that facilitated further experiments in this field.

After Pregl’s death, his legacy spread across both Slovenia and Austria. Nowadays, Slovenes know that the highest scholar award in chemistry is named after him, and there is a square on his honor in Ljubljana.

On the other hand, the story of Duncan Haldane is different. He was also born to parents, one of whom was Slovenian. However, he was raised in England and most probably never lived in Slovenia for a long time. Now, he is living in the United States, where he worked on various physics projects, one of which led him to the Nobel Prize.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how many Nobel Prizes were awarded to your nation until we all are humans and work for the sake of humanity.

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