Bookmark and Share

Letter to the Editor

Eric Mittemeijer
[Letter to the Editor]

I read, with interest, (i) your feature article "The mystery of the Lady of the Lamp" in IUCr Newsletter, Vol. 30, No. 1, and (ii) your editorial and (iii) the letter to the Editor by Stefan Dietrich, both in IUCr Newsletter, Vol. 30, No. 2. The scientist (crystallographer) Victor Mordechai Goldschmidt is nowadays mostly forgotten, yet, as a matter of fact, he is one of the founders of crystallography, with Federov and Groth, before the discovery of X-ray diffraction revolutionized the field.

I felt obliged to include in the second edition (2021) of my book "Fundamentals of Materials Science" (see a short Intermezzo devoted to his achievements [see ch. 4 (Crystallography), pp. 120–121]. The two-circle goniometer named after Goldschmidt, of unsurpassed precision, found worldwide application. It is also worthwhile to remark that the highly skilled technician in Goldschmidt's group, Peter Stoe, later became the founder of a firm named after him, "Stoe", that still exists and produces X-ray diffractometers.

I have to admit that the above important facts were unclear to me during the longest part of my career. I knew, of course, the name Goldschmidt, but only with respect to his well-known table of atomic radii and the tolerance factor. I have now been living for a few years in Heidelberg. By chance, during a stroll across the "mountain cemetery" ("Bergfriedhof") of Heidelberg, I was suddenly, unexpectedly confronted with the grave of the scientist Victor Mordechai Goldschmidt (1853–1933). I thought I was standing before the grave of the man of the "Goldschmidt atomic radii" and the related "Goldschmidt tolerance factor". However, this interpretation was found to be utterly wrong!

The "Goldschmidt atomic radii" and the related "Goldschmidt tolerance factor" are due to the, indeed also famous, geochemist Victor Moritz Goldschmidt (1888–1947) (Victor Moritz Goldschmidt was related to Victor Mordechai Goldschmidt, via the mother of the father of Victor Moritz; I don't know if both Victors ever met).

Evidently, many have mixed up the two Victor Goldschmidts, who moreover have identical initials (V. M.). It has happened to me for many years, and it has also happened now to you (see Note [1] in your feature article). To put the record straight, it may be worthwhile to make the readers of the IUCr Newsletter aware of the distinction in achievements of these two great scientists.

As a final sad note, I may add that both Victors (Victor Mordechai Goldschmidt and Victor Moritz Goldschmidt), as Jews, suffered from Nazism, were subjected to severe harassment, had to leave Germany, and died before and after the Second World War, respectively.

7 September 2022

Copyright © - All Rights Reserved - International Union of Crystallography