Top 10 German Physicists of All Time

Top 10 German Physicists of All Time

Germany is most known for its scientific achievements. Numerous German scientists, driven by a passion for unlocking the mysteries of the universe, made some of the most groundbreaking discoveries in human history. Humanity owes a significant debt of gratitude to the hard work and dedication of the German intellect for the opportunities and pleasures of modern civilization. There are however some physicists who made great efforts in the history of science. Let’s take a look at 10 of them.

1.      Max Planck (1858 – 1947)

German physicist – Max Planck

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, born on 23 April 1858 to Johann Julius Wilhelm Planck and his second wife, Emma Patzig, takes the controversial number one spot on today’s top 10 list. The Energy quanta was discovered by the German theoretical physicist Max Planck, who also happened to win the Nobel Prize in Physics that year (1918) for his efforts. Aside from his position as the creator of quantum theory, which transformed our knowledge of atomic and subatomic processes, Planck is also known for his many other contributions to theoretical physics. Following Planck’s two terms as president, the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (a German scientific organization) changed its name in 1948 to the Max Planck Society (MPG). There are now more than 80 organizations involved in the MPG, covering a wide range of scientific disciplines.

2.      Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

Highly Influential German physicist – Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein, who is widely regarded as one of the most popular and influential scientists of the 20th century, comes up at number 2 on our list. The German physicist was born to Hermann Einstein and Pauline Koch and later enrolled into the Alte Kantonsschule Aarau from 1895 to 1896 and went on to enroll into the University of Zurich in 1905. Even while Einstein is most recognized for his work on relativity, he also contributed significantly to the advancement of quantum mechanics. From his theory of relativity came the mass-energy equivalence formula “E = mc2,” which has been labeled “the world’s most famous equation. “The law of the photoelectric effect” was an important step in the development of quantum theory, and it was for this reason that he was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics.” Other great strides that have been attributed to the great scientist are his theories on General relativity, Cosmological constant and the Gravitational wave.

Einstein first married Serbian physicist, Mileva Marić from 1903 to 1919 and later went on to wed Elsa Löwenthal in 1919. Mileva, happened to be Albert’s cousin. Post Mortem results showed the Einstein died in 1955 due to internal bleeding caused by the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

3.      Wilhelm Röntgen (1845 – 1923)

Famous German physicist – Wilhelm Röntgen

When it came to the field of X-rays, there was none as qualified as the famous German physicist, Wilhelm Röntgen. Wilhelm was born to Friedrich Conrad Röntgen and Charlotte Constanze Frowein in 1845. During his formative years, he boarded at the Institute of Martinus Herman van Doorn before enrolling at the Utrecht Technical School in 1861. In 1865, he enrolled at the University of Utrecht as a physics student despite lacking the usual admissions documentation. He graduated with a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Zurich in 1869.

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was the first to systematically generate and detecte electromagnetic radiation in the wavelength range now known as x-rays, or Röntgen rays. The public was enthralled by his discovery of x-rays because it sparked a revolution in physics as well as medicine. His work led to him being awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901 as well as the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society of London in 1896. His discoveries in mechanics, heat, and electricity have also made him famous. He married Anna Bertha Ludwig from 1872 to 1919. Anna, happens to be the first person to a part of her body x-rayed. Colon cancer (also known as carcinoma of the gut) was the cause of Röntgen’s death in 1923.

4.      Georg Ohm (1789 – 1854)

Georg Ohm – German physicist

“Ohm’s Law,” a very important law in the world of physics was named after Georg Ohm, who first proposed it. The law asserts that “the amount of electricity flowing through a conductor is proportional to the square of the voltage across it and inversely related to the inverse square of the resistance”. Georg was honored by having the Ohm Ω sign for electrical resistance adopted as a physical unit in his honor.

Georg was born to Johann Wolfgang Ohm, and Maria Elizabeth Beck. He enrolled and graduated from the University of Erlangen. Ohms also won the Copley Medal in 1841.

5.      Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976)

Werner Heisenberg, German physicist and philosopher

German physicist and philosopher Werner Heisenberg was a significant contributor to quantum physics during his days. For coming up with a way to express quantum physics in terms of matrices, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932. Whenever there is a discussion the development of nuclear physics, particle physics, and quantum field theory, Heisenberg is never left out as a major contributor. He first enrolled into the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich from 1920 to 1923 and later went on to attend and graduate from the University of Göttingen.

Other great strides of Heisenberg include the “Electron hole theory,” “Quantum fluctuation” and the “S-matrix theory”. Heisenberg married Elisabeth Heisenberg from 1937 to 1976.

He unfortunately died of kidney cancer at his home in the later months of 1976.

6.      Hermann von Helmholtz (1821 – 1894)

German physicist – Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand Helmholtz

Popularly known as “Hermann von Helmholtz,” German physicist, physician, and philosopher Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand Helmholtz produced significant advancements in the fields of physiology, electrodynamics, optics, meteorology, and mathematics. Not only is he famous for his views on vision, but is also known for stating the “rule of conservation of energy.”

Hermann was raised by his parents, Ferdinand Helmholtz zed and Caroline Penn with three other siblings.  He later enrolled into the Medicinisch-chirurgisches Friedrich-Wilhelm-Institute in 1842. Hermann is known for the coining of “Helmholtz resonance”, “Generalized Helmholtz theorem” and the “Heat death paradox”. Later in life, Hermann von Helmholtz spent a great deal of time unsuccessfully trying to narrow down electrodynamics to a minimal set of mathematical principles. He won the Matteucci Medal and the Copley Medal in 1868 and 1873 respectively.

7.      Heinrich Hertz (1857 – 1894)

Heinrich Hertz discovered the photoelectric effect

Through a series of ingenious experiments, Heinrich Hertz discovered radio waves and validated James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism. In addition, Hertz made the groundbreaking discovery of the photoelectric effect, which was one of the earliest indicators of the presence of the quantum realm. In his honor, we have the hertz as a standard measure of frequency.

Hertz was born to Anna Elisabeth Pfefferkorn and Gustav Ferdinand Hertz. He enrolled and graduated from the University of Munich. He later became a product of the University of Berlin. Hertz won the Matteucci Medal in 1888 and the Rumford Medal in 1890. Heinrich Hertz is known for the invention of the Hertzian cone, Hertz–Knudsen equation and the Parabolic antenna.

Hertz got married to Elisabeth Doll in 1886 and later died from surgery complications in 1892.

8.      Max von Laue (1879 – 1960)

Max von Laue – Winner, Nobel Prize in physics

Coming up at number 8 on our list is Max von Laue. In 1914, German physicist Max von Laue won the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on developing X-ray crystallography. The said process, allows scientists to determine how atoms are arranged in various substances. Max was born to Julius Laue and Minna Zerrenner. In addition to his time spent in Strasbourg, Max von Laue attended classes at the universities of Göttingen and Munich, where he majored in physics. His doctorate in physics from University of Berlin followed in 1903.

It was optics and the wave theory of light that first piqued Laue’s interest. Since Wilhelm Röntgen’s discovery of X-rays in 1895, scientists have debated whether or not these invisible radiations are particles or brief electromagnetic waves. In 1912, Laue hypothesized that X-rays might be diffracted by a crystal functioning as a natural diffraction grating. Later tests with several crystals yielded patterns that were later named Laue patterns and used to deduce crystal structure.

Max won the Matteucci Medal in 1914 and the Max Planck Medal in 1932.

9.      Otto von Guericke (1602 – 1686)

German physicist – Otto von Guericke

Many of Otto von Guericke’s groundbreaking scientific discoveries were produced after he survived the deadliest carnage of the Thirty Years’ War. He independently developed the vacuum pump, theorized the existence of an absolute vacuum in space, determined the density of air, and developed the science of weather prediction based on air pressure.

While his electrical experiments led him to the ridiculous conclusion that what we call gravity is an electrical force, his most famous vacuum pump created such a powerful vacuum between two metal hemispheres that 16 horses could not pull them apart. In his mind, Earth is a little heavier than a feather.

The physicist was born to Anna Von Zweidorf and Hans Gericke. He enrolled into the Leipzig University in 1617. Guericke is also known for the coining of the Magdeburg hemispheres, Electrostatic generator and the Dasymeter.

10.  Max Born (1882 – 1970)

Max Born Co- Winner, Nobel Prize in Physics (1954)

German physicist Max Born was a pivotal figure in the development of quantum mechanics. Similarly, his theoretical contributions to the fields of solid-state physics and optics have been widely recognized as significant. Due to his statistical interpretation of quantum theory, Born and Walther Bothe, a fellow German nuclear physicist were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1954.

Max Born was a great theorist who made important advances in optics and physics. In 1921, he was given a prestigious position as Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Göttingen, where he founded a leading institute in the fields of atomic and quantum physics.

In what is arguably Born’s most important contribution to quantum theory, he proposed that the wave-function could only be used to anticipate the probabilities of alternative findings being concluded in measurements, and, more precisely, that the square of the wave-function depicts a probability density. The statistical interpretation of quantum theory was originally used to describe this idea.

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