Franz Ernst Neumann

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Franz Ernst Neumann
Franz Ernst Neumann by Carl Steffeck 1886.jpg
Franz Ernst Neumann.
Portrait by Carl Steffeck (1886)
Born(1798-09-11)11 September 1798
Died23 May 1895(1895-05-23) (aged 96)
Residence Germany
Nationality Germany
Alma mater University of Berlin
Known for Neumann's Law
Awards Copley Medal (1886)
Scientific career
Fields Physics
Institutions Königsberg University
Doctoral advisor Christian Samuel Weiss
Doctoral students Woldemar Voigt
Alfred Clebsch
Gustav Robert Kirchhoff
Friedrich Heinrich Albert Wangerin

Franz Ernst Neumann (11 September 1798 – 23 May 1895) was a German mineralogist, physicist and mathematician.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

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.

Mathematician person with an extensive knowledge of mathematics

A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics in his or her work, typically to solve mathematical problems.



Neumann was born in Joachimsthal, Margraviate of Brandenburg, near Berlin. In 1815 he interrupted his studies at Berlin to serve as a volunteer in the Hundred Days against Napoleon, and was wounded in the Battle of Ligny. Subsequently, he entered Berlin University as a student of theology, but soon turned to scientific subjects. His earlier papers were mostly concerned with crystallography, and the reputation they gained him led to his appointment as Privatdozent at the University of Königsberg, where in 1828 he became extraordinary, and in 1829 ordinary, professor of mineralogy and physics. His 1831 study on the specific heats of compounds included what is now known as Neumann's Law: the molecular heat of a compound is equal to the sum of the atomic heats of its constituents.

Joachimsthal, Brandenburg Place in Brandenburg, Germany

Joachimsthal  is a small town in the district of Barnim, in Brandenburg, Germany. It is situated within the Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve on the isthmus between the lakes Grimnitzsee in the north and Werbellinsee in the south, about 17 km (11 mi) northwest of the district's capital Eberswalde and 55 km (34 mi) northeast of the Berlin city centre. The municipality is the administrative seat of the Amt Joachimsthal (Schorfheide).

Margraviate of Brandenburg major principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1157 to 1806

The Margraviate of Brandenburg was a major principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1157 to 1806 that played a pivotal role in the history of Germany and Central Europe.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

Devoting himself next to optics, he produced memoirs which earned him a high place among early searchers of a true dynamical theory of light. In 1832, by the aid of a particular hypothesis as to the constitution of the ether, he reached by a rigorous dynamical calculation results agreeing with those obtained by Augustin Louis Cauchy, and succeeded in deducing laws of double refraction closely resembling those of Augustin-Jean Fresnel. In studying double refraction, with his deduction of the elastic constants (on which the optical properties depend) Neumann employed the assumption that the symmetry of the elastic behavior of a crystal was equal to that of its form. In other words, he assumed that the magnitudes of the components of a physical property in symmetric positions are equivalent. This assumption substantially reduced the number of independent constants and greatly simplified the elastic equations. However, four decades passed before Neumann elaborated his application of symmetry in a course on elasticity in 1873. This principle was later formalized by his student Woldemar Voigt (1850–1918) in 1885: ‘‘the symmetry of the physical phenomenon is at least as high as the crystallographic symmetry,’’ which became a fundamental postulate of crystal physics known as ‘‘Neumann’s principle’’. In 1900, Voigt attributed this principle to Neumann's 1832 paper even though, at most, all that was present in that work was an implicit assumption that the symmetry of the phenomenon was equal to that of the crystal. Bernhard Minnigerode (1837–1896), another student of Neumann, first expressed this relation in written form in 1887 in the journal Neues Jahrb. Mineral Geol. Paleontol. (Vol. 5, p. 145). [1]

Augustin-Jean Fresnel French engineer and physicist

Augustin-Jean Fresnel was a French civil engineer and physicist whose research in optics led to the almost unanimous acceptance of the wave theory of light, excluding any remnant of Newton's corpuscular theory, from the late 1830s  until the end of the 19th century.

Woldemar Voigt German physicist

Woldemar Voigt was a German physicist, who taught at the Georg August University of Göttingen. Voigt eventually went on to head the Mathematical Physics Department at Göttingen and was succeeded in 1914 by Peter Debye, who took charge of the theoretical department of the Physical Institute. In 1921, Debye was succeeded by Max Born.

Later, Neumann attacked the problem of giving mathematical expression to the conditions holding for a surface separating two crystalline media, and worked out from theory the laws of double refraction in strained crystalline bodies. He also made important contributions to the mathematical theory of electrodynamics, and in papers published in 1845 and 1847 established mathematically the laws of the induction of electric currents. [2] His last publication, which appeared in 1878, was on spherical harmonics (Beiträge zur Theorie der Kugelfunctionen).

With the mathematician Carl Gustav Jacobi, he founded in 1834 the mathematisch-physikalisches Seminar which operated in two sections, one for mathematics and one for mathematical physics. Not every student took both sections. In his section on mathematical physics Neumann taught mathematical methods and as well as the techniques of an exact experimental physics grounded in the type of precision measurement perfected by his astronomer colleague Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel. The objective of his seminar exercises was to perfect one's ability to practice an exact experimental physics through the control of both constant and random experimental errors. Only a few students actually produced original research in the seminar; a notable exception was Gustav Robert Kirchhoff who formulated Kirchhoff's Laws on the basis of his seminar research. This seminar was the model for many others of the same type established after 1834, including Kirchhoff's own at Heidelberg University.

Heidelberg University public research university in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Heidelberg University is a public research university in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Founded in 1386 on instruction of Pope Urban VI, Heidelberg is Germany's oldest university and one of the world's oldest surviving universities. It was the third university established in the Holy Roman Empire.

Neumann retired from his professorship in 1876, and died at Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia) in 1895 at the age of 96.

Königsberg capital city in Prussia

Königsberg is the name for a former German city that is now Kaliningrad, Russia. Originally a Sambian or Old Prussian city, it later belonged to the State of the Teutonic Order, the Duchy of Prussia, the Kingdom of Prussia, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany until 1945. After being largely destroyed in World War II by Allied bombing and Soviet forces and annexed by the Soviet Union thereafter, the city was renamed Kaliningrad. Few traces of the former Königsberg remain today.

Kaliningrad City in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia

Kaliningrad is a city in the administrative centre of Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, officially the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is by far or by a considerable margin the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.77 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

His children were talented. His son, Carl Gottfried Neumann (1832–1925), became in 1858 Privatdozent, and in 1863 extraordinary professor of mathematics at Halle. He was then appointed to the ordinary chair of mathematics successively at Basel (1863), Tübingen (1865) and Leipzig (1868).



  1. J. N. Lalena Crystal. Rev. Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 125-180 (2006).
  2. Neumann, Franz Ernst (1846). "Allgemeine Gesetze Der Inducirten Elektrischen Ströme" (PDF). Annalen der Physik. 143 (1): 31–44. Bibcode:1846AnP...143...31N. doi:10.1002/andp.18461430103.

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