Max von Laue

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Max von Laue
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-U0205-502, Max von Laue.jpg
Laue in 1929
BornMax Theodor Felix Laue
(1879-10-09)9 October 1879
Pfaffendorf, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died 24 April 1960(1960-04-24) (aged 80)
West Berlin, West Germany
Nationality German
Alma mater University of Strasbourg
University of Göttingen
University of Munich
University of Berlin
Known for Diffraction of X-rays
Awards Nobel Prize for Physics (1914)
Matteucci Medal (1914)
Max Planck Medal (1932)
Scientific career
Fields Physics
Institutions University of Zürich
University of Frankfurt
University of Berlin
Max Planck Institute
Doctoral advisor Max Planck
Arnold Sommerfeld
Doctoral students Leó Szilárd
Friedrich Beck
Max Kohler
Erna Weber
Other notable students Fritz London

Max Theodor Felix von Laue (9 October 1879 – 24 April 1960) was a German physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1914 for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals. In addition to his scientific endeavors with contributions in optics, crystallography, quantum theory, superconductivity, and the theory of relativity, he had a number of administrative positions which advanced and guided German scientific research and development during four decades. A strong objector to National Socialism, he was instrumental in re-establishing and organizing German science after World War II.

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.

Nobel Prize in Physics One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Physics is a yearly award given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for those who have made the most outstanding contributions for humankind in the field of physics. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others being the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Diffraction refers to various phenomena that occur when a wave encounters an obstacle or a slit

Diffraction refers to various phenomena that occur when a wave encounters an obstacle or a slit. It is defined as the bending of waves around the corners of an obstacle or aperture into the region of geometrical shadow of the obstacle. In classical physics, the diffraction phenomenon is described as the interference of waves according to the Huygens–Fresnel principle that treats each point in the wave-front as a collection of individual spherical wavelets. These characteristic behaviors are exhibited when a wave encounters an obstacle or a slit that is comparable in size to its wavelength. Similar effects occur when a light wave travels through a medium with a varying refractive index, or when a sound wave travels through a medium with varying acoustic impedance. Diffraction has an impact on the acoustic space. Diffraction occurs with all waves, including sound waves, water waves, and electromagnetic waves such as visible light, X-rays and radio waves.

Contents

Biography

Early years

Laue was born in Pfaffendorf, now part of Koblenz, Germany, to Julius Laue and Minna Zerrenner. In 1898, after passing his Abitur in Strassburg, he began his compulsory year of military service, after which in 1899 he started to study mathematics, physics, and chemistry at the University of Strassburg, the University of Göttingen, and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU). At Göttingen, he was greatly influenced by the physicists Woldemar Voigt and Max Abraham and the mathematician David Hilbert. After only one semester at Munich, he went to the Friedrich-Wilhelms-University of Berlin in 1902. There, he studied under Max Planck, who gave birth to the quantum theory revolution on 14 December 1900, when he delivered his famous paper before the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft. [1] [2] At Berlin, Laue attended lectures by Otto Lummer on heat radiation and interference spectroscopy, the influence of which can be seen in Laue's dissertation on interference phenomena in plane-parallel plates, for which he received his doctorate in 1903. [3] Thereafter, Laue spent 1903 to 1905 at Göttingen. Laue completed his Habilitation [4] in 1906 under Arnold Sommerfeld at LMU. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Koblenz Place in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Koblenz, spelled Coblenz before 1926, is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine where it is joined by the Moselle.

Abitur is a qualification granted by university-preparatory schools in Germany, Lithuania, and Estonia. It is conferred on students who pass their final exams at the end of their secondary education, usually after twelve or thirteen years of schooling. In German, the term Abitur has roots in the archaic word Abiturium, which in turn was derived from the Latin abiturus.

Strasbourg Prefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Strasbourg is the capital and largest city of the Grand Est region of France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located at the border with Germany in the historic region of Alsace, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin department.

Career

In 1906, Laue became a Privatdozent in Berlin and an assistant to Planck. He also met Albert Einstein for the first time; they became friends and Laue went on to contribute to the acceptance and development of Einstein's theory of relativity. Laue continued as assistant to Planck until 1909. In Berlin, he worked on the application of entropy to radiation fields and on the thermodynamic significance of the coherence of light waves. [7] [9]

Privatdozent or Privatdozentin, abbreviated PD, P.D. or Priv.-Doz., is an academic title similar to Adjunct professor in North America conferred at some European universities, especially in German-speaking countries, to someone who holds certain formal qualifications that denote an ability to teach a designated subject at university level. In its current usage, the title indicates that the holder has permission to teach and examine independently without having a position. The title is not necessarily connected to a salaried position, but may entail a nominal obligation to teach.

Albert Einstein German-born physicist and developer of the theory of relativity

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.

Theory of relativity physical theory

The theory of relativity usually encompasses two interrelated theories by Albert Einstein: special relativity and general relativity. Special relativity applies to elementary particles and their interactions, describing all their physical phenomena except gravity. General relativity explains the law of gravitation and its relation to other forces of nature. It applies to the cosmological and astrophysical realm, including astronomy.

From 1909 to 1912, Laue was a Privatdozent at the Institute for Theoretical Physics, under Arnold Sommerfeld, at LMU. During the 1911 Christmas recess and in January 1912, Paul Peter Ewald was finishing the writing of his doctoral thesis under Sommerfeld. It was on a walk through the Englischer Garten in Munich in January, that Ewald told Laue about his thesis topic. The wavelengths of concern to Ewald were in the visible region of the spectrum and hence much larger than the spacing between the resonators in Ewald's crystal model. Laue seemed distracted and wanted to know what would be the effect if much smaller wavelengths were considered. In June, Sommerfeld reported to the Physikalische Gesellschaft of Göttingen on the successful diffraction of X-rays by Laue, Paul Knipping and Walter Friedrich at LMU, for which Laue would be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1914. While at Munich, he wrote the first volume of his book on relativity during the period 1910 to 1911. [8] [9] [10] [11]

Arnold Sommerfeld German theoretical physicist

Arnold Johannes Wilhelm Sommerfeld, was a German theoretical physicist who pioneered developments in atomic and quantum physics, and also educated and mentored a large number of students for the new era of theoretical physics. He served as doctoral supervisor for many Nobel Prize winners in physics and chemistry.

Paul Peter Ewald German physicist

Paul Peter Ewald, FRS was a German crystallographer and physicist, a pioneer of X-ray diffraction methods.

Englischer Garten reservoir

The Englischer Garten is a large public park in the centre of Munich, Bavaria, stretching from the city centre to the northeastern city limits. It was created in 1789 by Sir Benjamin Thompson (1753–1814), later Count Rumford, for Prince Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria. Thompson's successors, Reinhard von Werneck (1757–1842) and Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell (1750–1823), advisers on the project from its beginning, both extended and improved the park.

In 1912, Laue was called to the University of Zurich as an extraordinarius professor of physics. In 1913, his father was raised to the ranks of hereditary nobility; Laue then became 'Max von Laue'. [9] In 1914 a new professor extraordinarius chair of theoretical physics had been created at the University of Berlin. Laue was offered the position but turned it down, and it was offered to Max Born. But Born was in the army until WW I ended, and before he had occupied the chair, Laue changed his mind and accepted the position.

University of Zurich university in Switzerland

The University of Zurich, located in the city of Zürich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 25,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy.

The term von[fɔn] is used in German language surnames either as a nobiliary particle indicating a noble patrilineality, or as a simple preposition used by commoners that means of or from.

Max Born physicist

Max Born was a German-Jewish physicist and mathematician who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics. He also made contributions to solid-state physics and optics and supervised the work of a number of notable physicists in the 1920s and 1930s. Born won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics for his "fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially in the statistical interpretation of the wave function".

Max von Laue c. 1914 Max von Laue sign.jpg
Max von Laue c. 1914

From 1914 to 1919, Laue was at the University of Frankfurt as ordinarius professor of theoretical physics. From 1916, he was engaged in vacuum tube development, at the University of Würzburg, for use in military telephony and wireless communications. [6] [7] [8] [9]

Vacuum tube Device that controls electric current between electrodes in an evacuated container

In electronics, a vacuum tube, an electron tube, or valve or, colloquially, a tube, is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric potential difference has been applied.

University of Würzburg university in Germany

The Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg is a public research university in Würzburg, Germany. The University of Würzburg is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in Germany, having been founded in 1402. The university initially had a brief run and was closed in 1415. It was reopened in 1582 on the initiative of Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn. Today, the university is named for Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn and Maximilian Joseph.

Telephony is the field of technology involving the development, application, and deployment of telecommunication services for the purpose of electronic transmission of voice, fax, or data, between distant parties. The history of telephony is intimately linked to the invention and development of the telephone.

In 1919, Laue was called to the University of Berlin as ordinarius professor of theoretical physics, a position he held until 1943, when he was declared emeritus, with his consent and one year before the mandatory retirement age. At the university in 1919, other notables were Walther Nernst, Fritz Haber, and James Franck. Laue, as one of the organizers of the weekly Berlin Physics Colloquium, typically sat in the front row with Nernst and Einstein, who would come over from the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Physik in Berlin-Dahlem, where he was the director. Among Laue's notable students at the university were Leó Szilárd, Fritz London, Max Kohler, and Erna Weber. In 1921, he published the second volume of his book on relativity. [6] [8] [12] [13]

As a consultant to the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt (PTR), Laue met Walther Meissner who was working there on superconductivity. Meissner had discovered that a weak magnetic field decays rapidly to zero in the interior of a superconductor, which is known as the Meissner effect. Laue showed in 1932 that the threshold of the applied magnetic field which destroys superconductivity varies with the shape of the body. Laue published a total of 12 papers and a book on superconductivity. One of the papers was co-authored with Fritz London and his brother Heinz. [7] [14] [15] [16] Meissner published a biography on Laue in 1960. [17]

The Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften (Today: Max-Planck Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften) was founded in 1911. Its purpose was to promote the sciences by founding and maintaining research institutes. One such institute was the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut für Physik (KWIP) founded in Berlin-Dahlem in 1914, with Einstein as director. Laue was a trustee of the institute from 1917, and in 1922 he was appointed deputy director, whereupon Laue took over the administrative duties from Einstein. Einstein was traveling abroad when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933, and Einstein did not return to Germany. Laue then became acting director of the KWIP, a position he held until 1946 or 1948, except for the period 1935 to 1939, when Peter Debye was director. In 1943, to avoid casualties to the personnel, the KWIP moved to Hechingen. It was at Hechingen that Laue wrote his book on the history of physics Geschichte der Physik, which was eventually translated into seven other languages. [7] [18] [19]

Opposition to Nazism

Laue opposed National Socialism in general and Deutsche Physik in particular – the former persecuted the Jews, in general, and the latter, among other things, put down Einstein's theory of relativity as Jewish physics. Laue and his close friend Otto Hahn secretly helped scientific colleagues persecuted by National Socialist policies to emigrate from Germany. Laue also openly opposed the policies. An address on 18 September 1933 at the opening of the physics convention in Würzburg, opposition to Johannes Stark, an obituary note on Fritz Haber in 1934, and attendance at a commemoration for Haber are examples which clearly illustrate Laue's courageous, open opposition:

  • Laue, as chairman of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, gave the opening address at the 1933 physics convention. In it, he compared the persecution of Galileo and the oppression of his scientific views on the solar theory of Copernicus to the then conflict and persecution over the theory of relativity by the proponents of Deutsche Physik, against the work of Einstein, labeled "Jewish physics."
  • Johannes Stark, who had received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1919, wished to become the Führer of German physics and was a proponent of Deutsche Physik. Against the unanimous advice of those consulted, Stark was appointed President of the PTR in May 1933. However, Laue successfully blocked Stark's regular membership in the Prussian Academy of Sciences.
  • Haber received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918. In spite of this and his many other contributions to Germany, he was forced to emigrate from Germany as a result of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, which removed Jews from their jobs. Laue's obituary note [20] praising Haber and comparing his forced emigration to the expulsion of Themistocles from Athens was a direct affront to the policies of National Socialism.
  • In connection with Haber, Max Planck, Otto Hahn and Laue organized a commemoration event held in Berlin-Dahlem on 29 January 1935, the first anniversary of Haber's death – attendance at the event by professors in the civil service had been expressly forbidden by the government. While many scientific and technical personnel were represented at the memorial by their wives, Laue and Wolfgang Heubner were the only two professors to attend. [21] [22] This was yet another blatant demonstration of Laue's opposition to National Socialism. The date of the first anniversary of Haber's death was also one day before the second anniversary of National Socialism seizing power in Germany, thus further increasing the affront given by holding the event.

The speech and the obituary note earned Laue government reprimands. Furthermore, in response to Laue blocking Stark's regular membership in the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Stark, in December 1933, had Laue sacked from his position as advisor to the PTR, which Laue had held since 1925. Chapters 4 and 5, in Welker's Nazi Science: Myth, Truth, and the Atomic Bomb, present a more detailed account of the struggle by Laue and Planck against the Nazi takeover of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. [14] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27]

Hidden Nobel prize

When Nazi Germany invaded Denmark in World War II, the Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy dissolved the Nobel Prize gold medals of Laue and James Franck in aqua regia to prevent the Nazis from discovering them. At the time, it was illegal to take gold out of the country, and if it had been discovered that Laue had done so he could have faced prosecution in Germany. Hevesy placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. After the war, he returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The Nobel Society then re-cast the Nobel Prize gold medals, using the original gold. [28]

Post-war

On 23 April 1945, French troops entered Hechingen, followed the next day by a contingent of Operation Alsos – an operation to investigate the German nuclear energy effort, seize equipment, and prevent German scientists from being captured by the Soviets. The scientific advisor to the Operation was the Dutch-American physicist Samuel Goudsmit, who, adorned with a steel helmet, appeared at Laue's home. Laue was taken into custody and taken to Huntingdon, England, and interned at Farm Hall with other scientists thought to be involved in nuclear research and development. [14]

While incarcerated, Laue was a reminder to the other detainees that one could survive the Nazi reign without having "compromised"; this alienated him from others being detained. [29] During his incarceration, Laue wrote a paper on the absorption of X-rays under the interference conditions, and it was later published in Acta Crystallographica. [14] On 2 October 1945, Laue, Otto Hahn, and Werner Heisenberg, were taken to meet with Henry Hallett Dale, president of the Royal Society, and other members of the Society. There, Laue was invited to attend 9 November 1945 Royal Society meeting in memory of the German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who discovered X-rays; permission was, however, not forthcoming from the military authorities detaining von Laue. [14]

Laue was returned to Germany early in 1946. He went back to being acting director of the KWIP, which had been moved to Göttingen. It was also in 1946 that the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft was renamed the Max-Planck Gesellschaft, and, likewise, the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut für Physik became the Max-Planck Institut für Physik. Laue also became an adjunct professor at the University of Göttingen. In addition to his administrative and teaching responsibilities, Laue wrote his book on superconductivity, Theorie der Supraleitung, and revised his books on electron diffraction, Materiewellen und ihre Interferenzen, and the first volume of his two-volume book on relativity. [8] [14] [30]

In July 1946, Laue went back to England, only four months after having been interned there, to attend an international conference on crystallography. This was a distinct honor, as he was the only German invited to attend. He was extended many courtesies by the British officer who escorted him there and back, and a well-known English crystallographer as his host; Laue was even allowed to wander around London on his own free will. [14]

After the war, there was much to be done in re-establishing and organizing German scientific endeavors. Laue participated in some key roles. In 1946, he initiated the founding of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft in only the British Occupation Zone, as the Allied Control Council would not initially allow organizations across occupation zone boundaries. During the war, the PTR had been dispersed; von Laue, from 1946 to 1948, worked on its re-unification across three zones and its location at new facilities in Braunschweig. Additionally, it took on a new name as the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, but administration was not taken over by Germany until after the formation of West Germany on 23 May 1949. Circa 1948, the President of the American Physical Society asked Laue to report on the status of physics in Germany; his report was published in 1949 in the American Journal of Physics . [31] In 1950, Laue participated in the creation of the Verband Deutscher Physikalischer Gesellschaften, formerly affiliated under the Nordwestdeutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft. [8] [14] [30]

In April 1951, Laue became director of the Max-Planck Institut für physikalische Chemie und Elektrochemie, a position he held until 1959. In 1953, at the request of Laue, the Institute was renamed the Fritz Haber Institut für physikalische Chemie und Elektrochemie der Max-Planck Gesellschaft. [14] [32]

Personal life

Max von Laue's grave in Gottingen Grave of Max von Laue at Stadtfriedhof Gottingen 2017 01.jpg
Max von Laue's grave in Göttingen

It was in 1913 that Laue's father, Julius Laue, a civil servant in the military administration, was raised into the ranks of hereditary nobility. Thus Max Laue became Max von Laue. [9] Laue married Magdalene Degen, while he was a Privatdozent at LMU. They had two children. [9]

Among Laue's chief recreational activities were mountaineering, motoring in his automobile, motor-biking, sailing, and skiing. While not a mountain climber, he did enjoy hiking on the Alpine glaciers with his friends. [7]

On 8 April 1960, while he was driving to his laboratory, Laue's car was struck in Berlin by a motorcyclist, who had received his license only two days earlier. The motorcyclist was killed and Laue's car was overturned. He died from his injuries sixteen days later on 24 April. [7] Being a profound believer, he had asked that his epitaph should read that he had died trusting firmly in God's mercy. [33] [34] [35]

Organizations

Honours and awards

Selected bibliography

Deutsche Post (der DDR) Briefmarke (postage stamp), 1979 Maxlj.jpg
Deutsche Post (der DDR) Briefmarke (postage stamp), 1979

Other publications

See also

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References

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  16. Fritz London Publications Archived 12 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine .Duke University
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  18. Hentschel, 1966, Appendix F, see entries for von Laue and Debye.
  19. Hentschel, 1966, Appendix A, see entries for KWG and KWIP.
  20. Laue, M. (1934). "Fritz Haber". Die Naturwissenschaften. 22 (7): 97. Bibcode:1934NW.....22...97V. doi:10.1007/BF01495380.
  21. Hentschel, 1996, Document #29, pp. 76–78: See Footnote #3.
  22. Hentschel, 1996, Document #120, pp. 400–402: A letter from Lise Meitner to Otto Hahn.
  23. Walker, pp. 65–122
  24. Hentschel, 1966, Appendix F, see entries for Max von Laue, Johannes Stark, and Fritz Haber.
  25. Hentschel, 1966, Appendix A, see entry for the DFG.
  26. Heilbron, J. L. (2000). The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck and the Fortunes of German Science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 159–162, 167–168. ISBN   0-674-00439-6.
  27. Beyerchen, Alan D. (1977). Scientists under Hitler: politics and the physics community in the Third Reich. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press. pp. 64–69, 208–209. ISBN   0-300-01830-4.
  28. Adventures in radioisotope research – the collected papers of George Hevesy, 1962, Pergamon Press, New York
  29. Bernstein, Jeremy (2001). Hitler's uranium club: the secret recordings at Farm Hall. New York: Copernicus. pp. 333–334. ISBN   0-387-95089-3.
  30. 1 2 Hentschel, 1996, Appendix A, see entries on KWG and KWIP.
  31. Laue, Max von (1949). "A Report on the State of Physics in Germany". American Journal of Physics . 17 (3): 137–141. Bibcode:1949AmJPh..17..137V. doi:10.1119/1.1989526.
  32. Hentschel, 1996, Appendix A, see entry on KWIPC.
  33. Max von Laue: Biographical The Nobel Prize in Physics 1914. Nobel Foundation.
  34. Ewald, P. P. (1960). "Max von Laue 1879-1960". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society . 6: 134. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1960.0028.
  35. Magill, Frank Northen (1989) The Nobel Prize Winners, Salem Press. ISBN   0893565598. p. 198
  36. Hentschel, 1966, Appendix A, see entry for NG.
  37. "Membership list" (PDF). Austrian Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
  38. "Max von Laue". Notable Names Database . Retrieved 2 November 2011.

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Further reading