My watch list  

Victor Goldschmidt

Victor Moritz Goldschmidt (Zürich, January 27, 1888 – March 20, 1947 in Oslo) was a chemist considered (together with Vladimir Vernadsky) to be the founder of modern geochemistry and crystal chemistry, developer of the Goldschmidt Classification of elements.


Early life & career

  Goldschmidt was born in Zürich. His parents, Heinrich J. Goldschmidt and Amelie Koehne named their son after a colleague of Heinrich, Victor Meyer. There was a history of great scientists and philosophers in both families. The Goldschmidt family came to Norway 1901 when Heinrich Goldschmidt took over a chair as Professor of Chemistry in Kristiania (Oslo).

Goldschmidt’s first important contribution was within the field of geology and mineralogy. His two first larger works were his doctor thesis Die Kontaktmetamorphose im Kristianiagebiet and Geologisch-petrographische Studien im Hochgebirge des südlichen Norwegens.

New Theories

  A series of publications under the title Geochemische Verteilungsgesetze der Elemente is usually referred to as the start of geochemistry, the science that describes the distribution of the chemical elements in nature. The geochemistry has not only greatly inspired the field of mineralogy and geology but also theoretical chemistry and crystallography. Goldschmidt’s work on atom and ion radii has been of enormous importance for crystallography. His work in this area has no doubt inspired the introduction of the Pauling covalent, ionic, and the Van der Waals radius.

Goldschmidt took great interest in the technical application of his science; the utilization of olivine for industrial refractory goes back to him. He was for many years the head of the Norwegian Committee for Raw Material (Statens Råstoffkomité).


There has hardly ever been a person in the Norwegian university world that made such an early and rapid career as Goldschmidt. Without even taking the usual exams or degrees he got a post-doctoral fellowship from the university already at the age of 21 (1909). He obtained his Norwegian doctor’s degree when he was 23 years old (1911). This kind of degree is usually obtained at an age of 30 to 40 years, and even 50 years and more is not unusual.

In 1912 Goldschmidt got the most distinguished Norwegian scientific award (the Fridtjof Nansen belonning) for his work Die Kontaktmetamorphose im Kristianiagebiet. The same year he was made Docent (Associate Professor) of Mineralogy and Petrography at the University of Oslo (known at that time as "Det Kongelige Frederiks Universitet").

In 1914 he applied for a professorship in Stockholm. The selecting committee unanimously chose Goldschmidt for the chair. But before the Swedish king had made the final official approbation, the University of Kristiania was able to secure him a similar chair. This was quite an unusual procedure and speed for appointing a professor. Usually it would take at least two years to obtain a new chair at a Norwegian university and one or two years to have the professor appointed. In Goldschmidt’s case it seems that all tradition of slowness was abolished, a fact that the University of Oslo shall always be grateful for. In 1929 Goldschmidt was called to the chair of mineralogy in Göttingen, but he returned to Oslo in 1935.

Later life

During the German occupation Goldschmidt was arrested and sent to Berg concentration camp, due to being of Jewish extraction. However, he was freed at the initiative of his colleagues and the Norwegian Resistance, shortly before a planned deportation to a German concentration camp. Goldschmidt later fled to Sweden and went on to England (where some of the Koehne family lived, and still reside today).

After the war he returned to Oslo again where he died, only 59 years old.

A larger work, Geochemistry, was edited and published posthumously in England in 1954.


  • Victor Moritz Goldschmidt: Father of Modern Geochemistry by Brian Mason (ISBN 0-941809-03-X)
  • C. E. Tilley (1948). "Victor Moritz Goldschmidt. 1888-1947". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 6 (17): 51-66.
  • K. H. Scheumann (1948). "Victor Moritz Goldschmidt". International Journal of Earth Sciences 35 (2): 179-180. doi:10.1007/BF01764480.
  • Carl W. Correns (1947). "Victor Moritz Goldschmidt". Journal Naturwissenschaften 34 (5): 129-131. doi:10.1007/BF00623407.
  • George B. Kaufman (1997). "Victor Moritz Goldschmidt (1888–1947): A Tribute to the Founder of Modern Geochemistry on the Fiftieth Anniversary of His Death". Journal The Chemical Educator 2 (5): 1-26. doi:10.1007/s00897970143a.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Victor_Goldschmidt". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE