Manne Siegbahn

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Örebro, Sweden
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Örebro, Sweden

Manne Siegbahn was a Swedish physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on X-ray spectroscopy in 1924. He was born in the late nineteenth century in southern Sweden and received his education in Stockholm and Lund. At the University of Lund, he began his career as a docent at the age of twenty-five, and at the age of thirty, he discovered a new set of wavelengths in X-ray emission spectra known as the M series, and at the age of thirty-four, he became a full professor. He later transferred to the University of Uppsala, where he stayed for the next fourteen years. He continued his X-ray spectroscopy research here, proving that X-rays, like light, are electromagnetic radiation. His Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for his work on X-ray spectroscopy. Later, he joined the University of Stockholm, and the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences appointed him as the first director of the Nobel Institute of Physics in the same year. Here, he pioneered nuclear physics research and established a center of excellence. Young scientists from throughout the world gathered to work under his direction. Manne Siegbahn Institute is the name of the institute today.

Childhood and Adolescence

Karl Manne Georg Siegbahn was born in Orebro, south-central Sweden, on December 3, 1886. Nils Reinhold Georg Siegbahn, his father, was a State Railways stationmaster stationed at Orebro at the time of his birth. Emma Sofia Mathilda Zetterberg was his mother’s name.

Manne Siegbahn attended Högre Allmänna Realläroverker in Stockholm for his secondary schooling. He entered the University of Lund after graduating in 1906, getting his candidate’s degree in 1908, his licentiate degree in 1910, and his doctorate in physics in 1911.

‘Magnetische Feldmessung’ was the title of his dissertation paper (magnetic field measurements). He also worked as an assistant to Professor J. R. Rydberg, the man who invented the Rydberg formula, from 1907 to 1911.

Career of Manne Siegbahn

Siegbahn was appointed as a docent at the University of Lund shortly after completing her doctorate. He did, however, spend the summer of 1911 in Paris and Berlin, studying.

When he returned to Lund, he formed his own research group and began working on X-ray spectroscopy in 1914. In 1915, he was appointed as a Deputy Professor of Physics at the same institution.

In the X-ray emission spectra, he found a new group of wavelengths in 1916. It was dubbed the M series later on. Following that, he focused on building apparatus and methodologies for determining the wavelengths of X-rays with precision.

Professor Rydberg’s health began to deteriorate some time ago, and he went on leave for an extended length of time. Siegbahn was required to attend his classes. When Rydberg died in 1920, he was appointed as a full professor in his place.

Siegbahn was offered a position at the Institution of Uppsala in 1923, which was at the time Sweden’s top university and had a well-established physics department. Although he was initially hesitant, he eventually accepted and relocated to Uppsala.

He continued his X-ray research at the University of Uppsala. In 1924, Siegbahn and his colleagues discovered that, like light, X-rays are refracted when passing through a glass prism. It was established that X-rays are electromagnetic radiation as well.

Later, he created a series of instruments that allowed him to accurately measure X-ray wavelengths. He also came up with a system for naming the various spectral lines. He was the one who came up with the Siegbahn nomenclature, which is used in X-ray spectroscopy to name the spectral lines that are typical of elements.

At the invitation of the Rockefeller Foundation, he visited the United States in 1924–1925. He presented talks at prestigious universities such as Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Chicago, Berkeley, Pasadena, and Montreal, among others.

Siegbahn became a Research Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Stockholm in 1937. The Nobel Institute of Physics was founded by the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm later that year, and Siegbahn was named its first Director. He held both positions at the same time.

He continued his work on X-ray spectroscopy as a Professor of Physics. He also began nuclear physics research at the same time and had a big cyclotron and an electromagnetic separator built for that purpose. He also had a high-tension generator for 400,000 volts built as a precaution.

He took on a number of big tasks after everything was arranged and appropriate processes were devised. Young scientists from Sweden and around the world worked on these projects with him, exploring the atomic nucleus and its radioactive qualities.

He visited the United States of America multiple times after WWII, from 1946 to 1953. He went to Berkeley, Pasadena, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago, M.I.T. Boston, Brookhaven, Columbia, and other major nuclear research institutes this time.

Siegbahn stepped down as Professor of Experimental Physics in 1964 but stayed on as Director of the Nobel Institute of Physics until 1975.
From 1939 to 1964, he was a member of the International Committee on Weights and Measures.

Major Projects of Manne Siegbahn

Despite his work in a variety of subjects, Siegbahn is best known for his work on X-ray spectroscopy. He aided in increased measurement precision by inventing new instruments and establishing new methodologies, as well as the discovery of several new series within the typical X-radiations.

Achievements & Awards

“For his discoveries and research in the field of X-ray spectroscopy,” Manne Siegbahn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1924.

In 1934, he received the Hughes Medal, in 1940, the Rumford Medal, and in 1948, the Duddell Medal and Prize.
Siegbahn was made a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 1954. (ForMemRS). He was also awarded honorary degrees from a number of well-known universities.

Personal History and Legacy

In 1914, Siegbahn married Karin Högbom. They had two children together. Bo Siegbahn, their oldest son, went on to become a diplomat and politician, while Kai Siegbahn went on to become a scientist.

At the age of 91, he died in Stockholm on September 26, 1978.

The standard length used to define the wavelengths of x-rays has been named after him as the Siegbahn unit. In 1995, Guyana released a stamp commemorating him.

The Noble Institute of Physics became the Manne Siegbahn Institute in 1988.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Manne Siegbahn is unknown.


He got a patent for the Siegbahn pump in 1944.
Kai Siegbahn, his son, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1981 for his contribution to the creation of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.