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Frits Zernike (1888-1966) | Part 1: From card game to Nobel Prize

Frits Zernike is one of those Groningen scientists that everyone in Groningen, or at least everyone connected to the University of Groningen, should know about. Because for his discovery of phase contrast and the invention of the phase contrast microscope Zernike brought the Nobel Prize to Groningen. But he made more important discoveries. In this series about Frits Zernike we will bring some of those discoveries to you.

In the history of the University of Groningen Zernike is first mentioned in 1908. As a chemistry student in Amsterdam he wins in that year a competition held by the University of Groningen with an article on the theory of probablility on the basis of a party game titled 'Bell and Hammer game'. Zernike's article is published by the university. In it he describes the game (in French, and in 34 densely written pages) which consists of cards, dice and counters. He explaines the different chances of winning within the game on the basis of extensive calculations and mathematical transformations. He received his prize, a medal, on 16 August 1908 from the Senate of the university, during the opneing of the academic year 1908-1909.

The original notebook with the prize winning text, as well as the invitation, are in the collections of the University Museum Groningen.
Last modified:08 October 2021 4.31 p.m.
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