Dalhousie to present exhibition celebrating Gerhard Herzberg and his legacy

Showcase of German Canadian Nobel Prize winner opens October 4

- October 3, 2022

Dr. Gerhard Herzberg. (© 2019 National Research Council of Canada)
Dr. Gerhard Herzberg. (© 2019 National Research Council of Canada)

Fifty years ago, German Canadian scientist Dr. Gerhard Herzberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. As part of an initiative to mark the anniversary and celebrate the life and legacy of the renowned chemist, Dalhousie University will host the exhibition Enterprises of the Human Spirit: 50 Years of Scientific Excellence in Germany and Canada.

The Dalhousie community is invited to a public celebration to officially open the exhibition on October 4 at 10 a.m. in the lobby of LeMarchant Place. The show will be presented in three locations on campus over its run at Dalhousie, including LeMarchant Place from October 4 to 7, the Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building from October 11 to 14, and Richard Murray Design Building from October 17 to 21.

The opening celebration will also provide an opportunity to recognize Dalhousie’s winners of NSERC’s Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, Drs. Jeff Dahn (2017), Axel Becke (2015), Ford Doolittle (2013). The annual award was created to recognize their research contributions characterized by both excellence and influence — two qualities that defined Dr. Herzberg's illustrious career.

Drs. Doolittle and Dahn will speak at the event about the impact Dr. Herzberg had on their work. Dr. Erin Johnson, Dalhousie’s Herzberg-Becke Chair in Theoretical Chemistry, will speak on behalf of Dr. Becke. The researchers’ achievements will be highlighted in a banner added to the exhibit for the Dalhousie stop.

Sponsored by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, the exhibition is travelling to universities and research institutions across Canada. It had its inaugural showing in April at the University of Saskatchewan, where Dr. Herzberg and his wife and scientific partner, Luise Herzberg, spent their first 10 years after emigrating from Germany in 1935.

Exhibition as presented at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, BC.

Powerful partnerships

The exhibition also marks the passing of the 50th anniversary of the 1971 signing of the Canada-Germany Science and Technology Agreement, a partnership that has helped spur more than 1,000 joint research projects.

“Celebrating the achievements and legacy of Dr. Gerhard Herzberg provides a wonderful opportunity to recognize Dalhousie and Canada’s important contributions to science,” says Dr. Alice Aiken, Dalhousie’s vice president of research and innovation. “Dr. Herzberg is an important figure who exemplifies the great achievements that can be realized through the common language of research.”

Dr. Herzberg was a passionate and outspoken scientist who believed strongly in the value of basic research and international research collaboration. In addition to the scientist’s life, the exhibition highlights Canada’s many important collaborations that continue today with research partners in Germany.

Related reading: Triple threat (DAL Magazine)

From 2017 to the present, researchers at Dalhousie have co-authored a total of 1,163 publications with colleagues at 243 German institutions. Key areas of collaboration include medicine, earth and planetary sciences, biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, agricultural, biological sciences, physics, and astronomy.

There are numerous high-profile funded projects in partnership with German institutions and Dal scholars currently underway, including ground-breaking studies focused on cardiovascular and brain health, hydrogen production, digital literacy, ocean science and more. In particular, Dalhousie’s Ocean Frontier Institute — which is focused on harnessing the vast potential of the world’s ocean to meet ecological, economic and societal challenges — has established partnerships with three German institutions as part of its international network.

Dalhousie’s strategic partnership with Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel is empowering a multi-faculty research and training partnership to support the exchange of undergraduate students and staff and serve as a foundation for initiation of large-scale, transatlantic, collaborative research projects focused on the ocean, molecular diversity, materials for life, and genomics and evolution.

The Enterprises of the Human Spirit exhibition was developed by Defining Moments Canada, a digital heritage and education company. The organization is offering additional resources and educational material about Dr. Herzberg to educators and students through their Herzberg50 website.


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