Jerome Karle, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1985

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Jerome Karle (Karfunkel), Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1985

Birthplace: New York, NY, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Louis Karfunkle and Sadie Karfunkle
Husband of <private> Karle (Lugoski)
Father of <private> Hanson (Karfunkle) (Karle); <private> Karfunkle (Karle) and <private> Tawney(Karfnkle) (Karle)
Brother of Miriam Aida Rettich

Occupation: Physical chemist, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1985
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Jerome Karle, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1985

Jerome Karle, born Jerome Karfunkel (born June 18, 1918) is an American physical chemist. Jointly with Herbert A. Hauptman, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1985, "for their outstanding achievements in the development of direct methods for the determination of crystal structures".

Early life and education

Karle was born in New York City on June 18, 1918. He was born into a Jewish family with a strong interest in the arts. He had played piano as a youth and had participated in a number of competitions, but he was far more interested in science. He attended Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, and would later join Arthur Kornberg (awarded the Nobel in Medicine in 1959) and Paul Berg (a winner in Chemistry in 1980), as graduates of the school to win Nobel Prizes. As a youth, Karle enjoyed handball, ice skating, touch football and swimming in the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

He started college at the age of 15 and received his bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1937, where he took additional courses in biology, chemistry and math in addition to the required curriculum there. He earned a master's degree from Harvard University in 1938, having majored in biology.

As part of a plan to accumulate enough money to pay for further graduate studies, Karle took a position in Albany, New York with the New York State Department of Health in Albany, where he developed a method to measure dissolved fluorine levels, a technique that would become a standard for water fluoridation.

He enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1940 and met his future wife, Isabella Lugoski, who was sitting at an adjoining desk during his first course in physical chemistry; The two married in 1942. Though he completed his studies in 1943, he was awarded his Ph.D. the following year.

Research and Nobel Prize

Starting in 1943, after completing graduate studies, Karle worked on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago with his wife Dr. Isabella Karle, one of the youngest scientists and few women on the project. In 1944, they returned to the University of Michigan, where Karle worked on a project for the United States Naval Research Laboratory. In 1946, they moved to Washington, D.C. to work for the Naval Research Laboratory.

Karle and Herbert A. Hauptman were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1985 for their work in using X-ray scattering techniques to directly determine the structure of crystals, a technique that is used to study the biological, chemical, metallurgical and physical characteristics. Through isolating the position of the atoms in a crystal, the molecular structure of the material being studied can be determined, allowing processes to be designed to duplicate the molecules being studied. This technique has played a major role in the development of new pharmaceutical products and other synthesized materials.

Karle and his wife retired from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory on July 31, 2009, after a combined 127 years of service to the United States Government, with Karle joining the NRL in 1944 and his wife two years later. At the time of his departure from government service, Karle held the Chair of Science as Chief Scientist of the Laboratory for the Structure of Matter. Retirement ceremonies for the Karles were attended by United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who presented the couple with the Department of the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Navy's highest form of recognition to civilian employees.


Karle has three daughters, all of whom work in science-related fields. Louise (born 1946) is a theoretical chemist. Jean (1950) is an organic chemist. Their youngest daughter, Madeleine (1955) is a museum specialist with expertise in the field of geology.

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Jerome Karle, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1985's Timeline

June 18, 1918
New York, NY, USA