Arthur R. von Hippel

Last updated
Arthur R. von Hippel
Born(1898-11-19)November 19, 1898
Rostock, Germany
DiedDecember 31, 2003(2003-12-31) (aged 105)
Residence Germany, Turkey, Denmark, U.S.
Alma mater University of Göttingen
Known forCodeveloping radar during World War
Discovering the ferroelectric and piezoelectric properties of barium titanate
Awards President's Certificate of Merit
Scientific career
Institutions Niels Bohr Institute, MIT
Doctoral advisor James Franck
His uncle, Eugen von Hippel described the ophthalmic hemangiomata that are part of von Hippel-Lindau disease, which bears his name.
His son, Eric von Hippel, is an MIT economist.

Arthur Robert von Hippel (November 19, 1898 December 31, 2003) [1] was a German American materials scientist and physicist. Von Hippel was a pioneer in the study of dielectrics, ferromagnetic and ferroelectric materials, and semiconductors and was a codeveloper of radar during World War II. [2]

Materials science Interdisciplinary field which deals with discovery and design of new materials, primarily of physical and chemical properties of solids

The interdisciplinary field of materials science, also commonly termed materials science and engineering, is the design and discovery of new materials, particularly solids. The intellectual origins of materials science stem from the Enlightenment, when researchers began to use analytical thinking from chemistry, physics, and engineering to understand ancient, phenomenological observations in metallurgy and mineralogy. Materials science still incorporates elements of physics, chemistry, and engineering. As such, the field was long considered by academic institutions as a sub-field of these related fields. Beginning in the 1940s, materials science began to be more widely recognized as a specific and distinct field of science and engineering, and major technical universities around the world created dedicated schools of the study, within either the Science or Engineering schools, hence the naming.

Physicist scientist who does research in physics

A physicist is a scientist who specializes in the field of physics, which encompasses the interactions of matter and energy at all length and time scales in the physical universe. Physicists generally are interested in the root or ultimate causes of phenomena, and usually frame their understanding in mathematical terms. Physicists work across a wide range of research fields, spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic and particle physics, through biological physics, to cosmological length scales encompassing the universe as a whole. The field generally includes two types of physicists: experimental physicists who specialize in the observation of physical phenomena and the analysis of experiments, and theoretical physicists who specialize in mathematical modeling of physical systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. Physicists can apply their knowledge towards solving practical problems or to developing new technologies.

A semiconductor material has an electrical conductivity value falling between that of a conductor, such as metallic copper, and an insulator, such as glass. Its resistance decreases as its temperature increases, which is the behaviour opposite to that of a metal. Its conducting properties may be altered in useful ways by the deliberate, controlled introduction of impurities ("doping") into the crystal structure. Where two differently-doped regions exist in the same crystal, a semiconductor junction is created. The behavior of charge carriers which include electrons, ions and electron holes at these junctions is the basis of diodes, transistors and all modern electronics. Some examples of semiconductors are silicon, germanium, gallium arsenide, and elements near the so-called "metalloid staircase" on the periodic table. After silicon, gallium arsenide is the second most common semiconductor and is used in laser diodes, solar cells, microwave-frequency integrated circuits and others. Silicon is a critical element for fabricating most electronic circuits.


Early life

Von Hippel was born in Rostock, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, on November 19, 1898. He graduated in physics from the University of Göttingen, where he was taught by many eminent figures of mathematics and physics of the time, including David Hilbert, Richard Courant, Peter Debye, Robert Pohl, Max Born, Gustav Hertz, and Nobel Prize winner James Franck (who was his thesis supervisor). Von Hippel received his Ph.D. in physics in 1924, and in 1930 married Franck's daughter, Dagmar.

Rostock Place in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany

Rostock, officially the Hanseatic City of Rostock, is the largest city in the German federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and lies in the Mecklenburgian part of the state, close to the border with Pomerania. With around 208,000 inhabitants, it is the third largest city on the German Baltic coast after Kiel and Lübeck, the eighth largest city in the area of former East Germany, as well as the 39th largest city of Germany. Rostock was the largest coastal and most important port city in East Germany.

Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin grand duchy

The Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was a territory in Northern Germany held by the House of Mecklenburg residing at Schwerin. It was a sovereign member state of the German Confederation and became a federated state of the North German Confederation and finally of the German Empire in 1871.

Physics Study of the fundamental properties of matter and energy

Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its motion and behavior through space and time, and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.

Career and achievements

In 1933, with the ascension of Nazis to power in Germany, von Hippel decided to move to another country, mainly because his wife was Jewish, but due also to his political stance against the new regime. In 1934 he was able to secure a position with the University at Istanbul, Turkey, then spent a year in Denmark, working at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. In 1936, accepting an invitation by Karl Compton, von Hippel moved again, this time to the U.S., and became an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During this time, he studied the properties and behavior of high voltage gas discharges, using positive and negative Lichtenberg figures recorded on photographic film. In 1940 he founded the Laboratory for Insulation Research, which soon became one of the most important research and education centers in this area in the world.

National Socialism, more commonly known as Nazism, is the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party—officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party —in Nazi Germany, and of other far-right groups with similar ideas and aims.

Istanbul Metropolitan municipality in Marmara, Turkey

Istanbul, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural and historic center. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, straddling the Bosporus strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies on the European side and about a third of its population lives in suburbs on the Asian side of the Bosporus. With a total population of around 15 million residents in its metropolitan area, Istanbul is one of the world's most populous cities, ranking as the world's fourth largest city proper and the largest European city. The city is the administrative center of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

Turkey Republic in Western Asia

Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey, is a transcontinental country located mainly on the Anatolian peninsula in Western Asia, with a small portion on the Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. East Thrace, the part of Turkey in Europe, is separated from Anatolia by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorous and the Dardanelles. Turkey is bordered by Greece and Bulgaria to its northwest; Georgia to its northeast; Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the south. Istanbul is the largest city while Ankara is the capital. Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the country's citizens identify as Turkish. Kurds are the largest minority; the size of the Kurdish population is a subject of dispute with estimates placing the figure at anywhere from 12 to 25 percent of the population.

Together with MIT's Radiation Lab, von Hippel and his collaborators helped to develop radar technology during the war. He was awarded the President's Certificate of Merit in 1948 by U.S. President Harry Truman. He became famous also for his discovery of ferroelectric and piezoelectric properties of barium titanate (BaTiO3).

The President's Certificate of Merit was created June 6, 1946 by Executive Order 9734 signed by US President Harry Truman, "for award by the President or at his direction to any civilian who on or after December 7, 1941, has performed a meritorious act or service which has aided the United States or any nation engaged with the United States in the prosecution of World War II, and for which there is no other suitable award or recognition."

President of the United States Head of state and of government of the United States

The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

Barium titanate chemical compound

Barium titanate is an inorganic compound with chemical formula BaTiO3. Barium titanate appears white as a powder and is transparent when prepared as large crystals. It is a ferroelectric ceramic material that exhibits the photorefractive effect and piezoelectric properties. It is used in capacitors, electromechanical transducers and nonlinear optics.

During the war the results on dielectrics obtained by the Laboratory for Insulation Research were classified information. After the war these results were prepared for publication. In 1954 von Hippel published Dielectrics and Waves and assembled Dielectric Materials and Applications with 22 collaborators. [3] The Laboratory for Insulation Research also published several technical reports. [4]

Classified information Material that a government body claims is sensitive information that requires protection of confidentiality, integrity, or availability

Classified information is material that a government body deems to be sensitive information that must be protected. Access is restricted by law or regulation to particular groups of people with the necessary security clearance and need to know, and intentional mishandling of the material can incur criminal penalties. A formal security clearance is required to view or handle classified documents or to access classified data. The clearance process requires a satisfactory background investigation. Documents and other information must be properly marked "by the author" with one of several (hierarchical) levels of sensitivity—e.g. restricted, confidential, secret and top secret. The choice of level is based on an impact assessment; governments have their own criteria, which include how to determine the classification of an information asset, and rules on how to protect information classified at each level. This often includes security clearances for personnel handling the information. Although "classified information" refers to the formal categorization and marking of material by level of sensitivity, it has also developed a sense synonymous with "censored" in US English. A distinction is often made between formal security classification and privacy markings such as "commercial in confidence". Classifications can be used with additional keywords that give more detailed instructions on how data should be used or protected.

Arthur introduced his ideas of designing materials with properties prescribed for the purpose at hand, or molecular engineering, in 1956 in an article [5] that discussed impurities and dislocations in materials, and the use of imperfections. He edited the volume Molecular Science and Molecular Engineering (1959). [6] [7]

Molecular engineering

Molecular engineering is an emerging field of study concerned with the design and testing of molecular properties, behavior and interactions in order to assemble better materials, systems, and processes for specific functions. This approach, in which observable properties of a macroscopic system are influenced by direct alteration of a molecular structure, falls into the broader category of “bottom-up” design.

The premier award of the Materials Research Society is named in his honor.

Later life

He died at 105 years of age, in 2003. His son, Frank N. von Hippel was a theoretical physicist and professor of Public Policy at Princeton University. Another son, Eric von Hippel, is a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management who has done pioneering research on user innovation. His uncle, Eugen von Hippel, described the ophthalmic hemangiomata that are part of von Hippel-Lindau disease, which bears his name.

In Historical Fiction

von Hippel is briefly mentioned in Ayşe Kulin's historical novel Without a Country as one of the German scientists who took an academic position in Turkey while fleeing Nazi Germany.

Related Research Articles

Dielectric electrically poorly conducting or non-conducting, non-metallic substance of which charge carriers are generally not free to move

A dielectric is an electrical insulator that can be polarized by an applied electric field. When a dielectric is placed in an electric field, electric charges do not flow through the material as they do in an electrical conductor but only slightly shift from their average equilibrium positions causing dielectric polarization. Because of dielectric polarization, positive charges are displaced in the direction of the field and negative charges shift in the opposite direction. This creates an internal electric field that reduces the overall field within the dielectric itself. If a dielectric is composed of weakly bonded molecules, those molecules not only become polarized, but also reorient so that their symmetry axes align to the field.

Gerhard Herzberg German-Canadian physicist and physical chemist

Gerhard Heinrich Friedrich Otto Julius Herzberg, was a German-Canadian pioneering physicist and physical chemist, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1971, "for his contributions to the knowledge of electronic structure and geometry of molecules, particularly free radicals". Herzberg's main work concerned atomic and molecular spectroscopy. He is well known for using these techniques that determine the structures of diatomic and polyatomic molecules, including free radicals which are difficult to investigate in any other way, and for the chemical analysis of astronomical objects. Herzberg served as Chancellor of Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada from 1973 to 1980.

Donald A. Glaser American physicist and neurobiologist

Donald Arthur Glaser was an American physicist, neurobiologist, and the winner of the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the bubble chamber used in subatomic particle physics.

James Franck German physicist

James Franck was a German physicist who won the 1925 Nobel Prize for Physics with Gustav Hertz "for their discovery of the laws governing the impact of an electron upon an atom". He completed his doctorate in 1906 and his habilitation in 1911 at the Frederick William University in Berlin, where he lectured and taught until 1918, having reached the position of professor extraordinarius. He served as a volunteer in the German Army during World War I. He was seriously injured in 1917 in a gas attack and was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class.

John C. Slater American physicist

John Clarke Slater was a noted American physicist who made major contributions to the theory of the electronic structure of atoms, molecules and solids. This work is of ongoing importance in chemistry, as well as in many areas of physics. He also made major contributions to microwave electronics. He received a B.S. in Physics from the University of Rochester in 1920 and a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard in 1923, then did post-doctoral work at the universities of Cambridge (briefly) and Copenhagen. On his return to the U.S. he joined the Physics Department at Harvard.

Francis Bitter was an American physicist.

Herbert Fröhlich British physicist

Herbert Fröhlich FRS was a German-born British physicist.

Hafnium dioxide chemical compound

Hafnium(IV) oxide is the inorganic compound with the formula HfO2. Also known as hafnia, this colourless solid is one of the most common and stable compounds of hafnium. It is an electrical insulator with a band gap of 5.3~5.7 eV. Hafnium dioxide is an intermediate in some processes that give hafnium metal.

Ernst Carl Reinhold Brüche was a German physicist. From 1944 to 1972, he was the editor of the Physikalische Blätter, a publication of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft.

Frank N. von Hippel is an American physicist. He is Professor and Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Walter Herrmann (physicist) German physicist

Walter Herrmann was a German nuclear physicist and mechanical engineer who worked on the German nuclear energy project during World War II. After the war, he headed a laboratory for special issues of nuclear disintegration at Laboratory V in the Soviet Union.

Andreas Mershin is a physicist at the Center for Bits and Atoms in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Herbert Arthur Stuart was a German experimental physicist who made contributions in molecular physics research. During World War II, he was director of the experimental physics department at the Technische Hochschule Dresden. From 1955, he was the head of the high polymer physics laboratory at the University of Mainz.

Dr. Dudley Allen Buck (1927–1959) was an electrical engineer and inventor of components for high-speed computing devices in the 1950s. He is best known for invention of the cryotron, a superconductive computer component that is operated in liquid helium at a temperature near absolute zero. Other inventions were ferroelectric memory, content addressable memory, non-destructive sensing of magnetic fields, and writing printed circuits with a beam of electrons.

Jacques Friedel French physicist

Jacques Friedel ForMemRS was a French physicist and material scientist.

Ramamoorthy Ramesh is an American materials scientist of Indian descent who has contributed to the synthesis, assembly and understanding of complex functional oxides, such as ferroelectric materials. In particular, he has worked on the development of ferroelectric perovskites, manganites with colossal magnetoresistance, and also on multiferroic oxides with potential benefits for modern information technologies.

Reimund Gerhard is a German applied physicist and university professor. Between 1979 and 2006 he used the last name "Gerhard-Multhaupt".

Nelamangala Vedavyasachar Madhusudana is an Indian physicist and an emeritus scientist at Raman Research Institute. Known for his research on liquid crystals, Madhusudhana is an elected fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences and Indian National Science Academy. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the apex agency of the Government of India for scientific research, awarded him the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology, one of the highest Indian science awards, for his contributions to physical sciences in 1989.

Gen Shirane was a Japanese-American experimental solid-state physicist, known for his investigations using neutron scattering as a probe of solids. He lived most of his life in the USA.


  1. Rose, Derek (January 4, 2004). "Arthur R. von Hippel". The Tech. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
  2. Dresselhaus, Mildred S. (September 2004). "Obituary: Arthur Robert von Hippel". Physics Today. 57 (9): 76–77. Bibcode:2004PhT....57i..76D. doi:10.1063/1.1809100.
  3. S.O. Morgan (1955) Reviews on Dielectrics, Journal of the Electrochemical Society 102(3)
  4. The following citations are from Google Books:
  5. A. von Hippel (1956) Molecular Engineering, Science 123 & MIT Technology Review (March 1956), link from Jstor
  6. C.E.H. Bawn (1962) "Review: Molecular Science and Molecular Engineering], Tetrahedron 18(3):385 "coherent, clear, interesting"
  7. G.A. Gilbert (10 December 1959) Solid State Physics and Chemistry, New Scientist, link from Google Books