A Nobel Prize in Chemistry won by a man who was saved from the Holocaust by the Kindertransport was sold at auction last week for $457,531.
The Nobel Prize was awarded to Walter Kohn in 1998 for his development of the density-functional theory.
Kohn was born to Jewish parents in Vienna in 1923. When the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938 and declared the Anschluss, or the unification of Austria and Germany, Kohn was kicked out of his school and his father’s business was confiscated by the Nazis. In 1939, Kohn was sent to England as part of the Kindertransport, a program in which Jewish children were brought from Europe to the United Kingdom on the eve of World War II. Kohn arrived in England in August 1939, just a month before the outbreak of the war. Both of his parents were killed in the Holocaust.
Kohn went on to study at the University of Toronto in Canada where he studied applied mathematics and then earned a PhD in physics at Harvard. He taught physics at the University of California’s Santa Barbara and San Diego campuses and was instrumental in founding Jewish studies department at the San Diego school. Kohn died in 2016 at the age of 93.
The lot in which Kohn’s Nobel medal was sold also included three science textbooks from Kohn’s early days as a physics and mathematics student. Bidding on the medal began at $275,000.