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The native form of this personal name is Békésy György. This article uses the Western name order.
Georg von Békésy
Born 3 June 1899(1899-06-03)
Budapest, Hungary
Died 13 June 1972 (aged 73)
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Nationality Hungarian
Fields Biophysics
Known for Cochlea
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1961)

Georg von Békésy (Békésy György) (June 3, 1899 – June 13, 1972) was a Hungarian biophysicist born in Budapest.

In 1961, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the function of the cochlea in the mammalian hearing organ. The decision of the prize committee had been controversial from the beginning, and research of the past three decades revealed that von Békésy’s main conclusions were in error.

Contents

Research

Békésy developed a method for dissecting the inner ear of human cadavers while leaving the cochlea partly intact. By using strobe photography and silver flakes as a marker, he was able to observe that the basilar membrane moves like a surface wave when stimulated by sound. Because of the structure of the cochlea and the basilar membrane, different frequencies of sound cause the maximum amplitudes of the waves to occur at different places on the basilar membrane along the coil of the cochlea.[1]

He concluded that his observations showed how different sound wave frequencies are locally dispersed before exciting different nerve fibers that lead from the cochlea to the brain. He theorized that the placement of each sensory cell (hair cell) along the coil of the cochlea corresponds to a specific frequency of sound (the so-called tonotopy). Békésy later developed a mechanical model of the cochlea, which confirmed the concept of frequency dispersion by the basilar membrane in the mammalian cochlea. But this model could not provide any information as to a possible function of this frequency dispersion in the process of hearing.[1]

In a posthumous 1974 article looking back over progress in the field, he remarked "In time, I came to the conclusion that the dehydrated cats and the application of Fourier analysis to hearing problems became more and more a handicap for research in hearing,"[2] referring to the difficulties in getting animal preparations to behave as when alive, and the misleading common interpretations of Fourier analysis in hearing research.

Biography

Békésy was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of diplomat Alexander von Békésy and his wife Paula. He went to school in Budapest, Munich, and Zürich. He studied chemistry in Berne and received his PhD from the University of Budapest in 1926.

During World War II, Békésy worked for the Hungarian Post Office, where he did research on telecommunications. This research led him to become interested in the workings of the ear. In 1946, he left Hungary to follow this line of research at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

In 1947, he moved to the United States, working at Harvard University until 1966. He became a professor at the University of Hawaii in 1966 and died in Honolulu.

References

Further reading

  • Czeizel, Andrew E (2004), "Famous Hungarian physicians", The Lancet 364 (9434): 581–2, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(04)16847-5, PMID 15195664  
  • Evans, Rand B (2003), "Georg von Békésy: visualization of hearing", American Psychologist 58 (9): 742–6, 2003 Sep, doi:10.1037/0003-066X.58.9.742, PMID 14584991  
  • Raju, T N (1999), "The Nobel chronicles. 1961: Georg von Békésy (1899-1972)", Lancet 354 (9172): 80, 1999 Jul 3, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)75353-8, PMID 10406402  
  • Shampo, M A; Kyle, R A (1993), "Georg von Békésy--audiology and the cochlea", Mayo Clin. Proc. 68 (7): 706, 1993 Jul, PMID 8350644  
  • Tonndorf, J (1986), "Georg von Békésy and his work", Hear. Res. 22: 3–10, doi:10.1016/0378-5955(86)90067-5, PMID 3525485  
  • Bernhard, C G (1986), "Georg von Békésy and the Karolinska Institute", Hear. Res. 22: 13–7, doi:10.1016/0378-5955(86)90069-9, PMID 3525483  
  • "Proceedings of Nobel Symposium 63. Cellular mechanisms in hearing (en hommage à Georg von Békésy). Karlskoga, 2–6 September 1985", Hear. Res. 22: 1–326, 1986, PMID 3525481  
  • Tonndorf, J (1974), "In memoriam Georg von Békésy 1899-1972", J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 55 (3): 576–7, 1974 Mar, doi:10.1121/1.1914566, PMID 4594785  
  • Glorig, A (1973), "Georg von Békésy 1899-1972", Audiology 12 (5): 540–1, doi:10.3109/00206097309071667, PMID 4582926  
  • Keidel, W D (1973), "In memorian Professor Dr. phil. Dr. med. h.c. Georg v. Békésy", Kybernetik 12 (2): 116–8, 1973 Feb, doi:10.1007/BF00272468, PMID 4571620  
  • Ratliff, F (1973), "Georg von Békésy", Experimental brain research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Expérimentation cérébrale 16 (3): 219–20, 1973 Jan 29, PMID 4568685  
  • Keidel, W D (1973), "[In memoriam Professor Dr.phil.Dr.med.h.c. Georg von Békésy]", Zeitschrift für Laryngologie, Rhinologie, Otologie und ihre Grenzgebiete 52 (1): 1–6, 1973 Jan, PMID 4567951  
  • Davis, H (1972), "Georg von Békésy, 1899-1972", Ann. Otol. Rhinol. Laryngol. 81 (5): 750–1, 1972 Oct, PMID 4568444  
  • Zwislocki, J J (1972), "Georg von Békésy, 1899-1972", J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 52 (4): 1094–5, 1972 Oct, PMID 4563147  
  • "Georg von Beksey", ASHA 14 (9): 513, Sep 1972, 1972 Sep, ISSN 0001-2475, PMID 4560564  
  • Tonndorf, J (1972), "[Obituary for Georg von Békésy (1899-1972)]", Archiv für klinische und experimentelle Ohren- Nasen- und Kehlkopfheilkunde 203 (1): 81–5, doi:10.1007/BF00344566, PMID 4564741  
  • "The American Speech and Hearing Association presents the honors of the Association", ASHA 9 (6): 222, 1967, 1967 Jun, PMID 5343023  
  • BERNHARD, C G (1962), "Presentation of the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine (1961) to George von BEKESY", Transactions of the American Otological Society 50: 332–6, PMID 13971073  
  • KEIDEL, W D (1961), "[G. von BEKESY Nobel prize winner 1961.]", Zeitschrift für Laryngologie, Rhinologie, Otologie und ihre Grenzgebiete 40: 885–8, 1961 Dec, PMID 14037041  
  • PALVA, T (1961), "[The 1961 Nobel prize in medical science and physiology (Georg von BEKESY).]", Duodecim; lääketieteellinen aikakauskirja 77: 791–2, PMID 14037251  

External links



Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Georg von Békésy (Békésy György) (June 3, 1899June 13, 1972) was a Hungarian biophysicist born in Budapest.

In 1961, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the function of the cochlea in the mammalian hearing organ.

Sourced

  • Too much equipment can be, however, something that hampers scientific development. I had the feeling that if there is no equipment present, everybody is forced to simplify his ideas in such a way that the experiments become simple. If there is too much equipment available, he can attack any experiment immediately since all the difficulties will be overcome by putting more money in the equipment. In the long run, some of the equipment becomes so complicated that it is difficult to see how all the parts interact.
    • in My experiences in different laboratories, autobiographical speech by von Békésy published in Fizikai Szemle 1999/5. 166.o.[1]
  • If we want to make a discovery, we have to take a risk, since everything new was discovered by accident or by the fact that somebody took a chance and went ahead when there wasn't 100 percent safety for the solution.
    • in My experiences in different laboratories, autobiographical speech by von Békésy published in Fizikai Szemle 1999/5. 166.o.
  • It is not the things that we have, but how we use them that is important.
    • in My experiences in different laboratories, autobiographical speech by von Békésy published in Fizikai Szemle 1999/5. 166.o.

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