Early 1900s photo album captures the evolution of one loving family

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1912-1938

Traveling with the Paneths

An intimate, colorful record of a family on the move

by Alex Q. Arbuckle

Friedrich Adolf Paneth was born in Austria in 1887, the son of Jewish parents but raised as a Protestant.

He received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Vienna in 1910, but soon switched to study radiochemistry, and began to make a name for himself. From there, he naturally taught himself photography, including the new and complex color process known as Autochrome.

In 1913, Paneth married Else Hartmann, and took her on a honeymoon to Cairo. The next year they had a daughter, Eva, and in 1918 a son, Heinz.

While Paneth built an academic career and became a respected authority on subjects from hydrides and meteorites to the philosophy of chemistry, he continued to travel around Europe with his family, visiting Scotland, Italy, Austria, France and other locales.

In each of these places, he created carefully observed, romantic photographs of his wife, children and their surroundings.

With the rise of Nazism in Germany, Paneth chose not to return from a 1933 lecture tour in England. Instead he became a British citizen. He finally returned to Germany in 1953 to direct the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry until his death in 1958.

Twenty years later, his daughter Eva donated 2,000 of his photographs to the Royal Photographic Society, including many pictures of their travels as a family.

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