University of Arizona

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Papers of Pierre Lecomte du Noüy

Pierre Lecomte du Noüy on Horseback in Canyon de Chelly, AZ, 1922

Pierre Lecomte du Noüy was a French bio-physicist and philosopher. He was a lieutenant in World War I and joined the Rockefeller Institute in New York. He created the first laboratory of molecular bio-physics in Europe. Heisenberg's theory of indeterminism, as well as the laws of chance, coupled with years of work on living matter by means of physical methods, had convinced him that life and the steady progress of evolution cannot be accounted for by modern physical laws and that materialism can no longer be based on science. In 1944 the University of Lausanne awarded him the Arnold Raymond prize for the most valuable contribution to the philosophy of science. La Dignité Humaine developed some of the ideas in his first two books and stressed moral and spiritual conclusions

Lecomte de Noüy's scientific work can be classed in four principal groups: 1) Cicatrization of wounds--He established the mathematical formula based to calculate beforehand the exact date of cicatrizatiuon. 2) Absorption phenomena of surface tension--The tensiometer enabled him to provide evidence of the existence of monomolecular layers which in turn disclosed three minima in the surface tension of sodium oleate and enabled him to calculate the three dimensions of the molecule. 3) Physico-chemical characteristics of Immunity--The study of thin layers of serum on water led to the discovery of a physico-chemical phenomenon not due to immunization and showed that the serum is constituted of asymmetric prismatic molecules capable of being polarized in monomolecular layers. 4)Experiments made by heating serum at a temperature above 55 degrees Celcius. Showed an increase in surface tension, viscosity, rotatory power, rotatory dispersion, etc. 

This collection includes Scientific manuscripts, lectures, articles and lab manuals relate to Lecomte de Noüy's research in biophysics. His writings, correspondence and articles provide information about Lecomte de Noüy's association with the American USO from 1944-1945. His plays and short stories appear to have been written from 1902-1914. Photographs are of Lecomte, his laboratory, and his family.

Some materials are in French.