Planck Max

(23.04.1858 – 04.10.1947) 


German theoretical physicist, founder of quantum physics. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics and other awards, a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences of a number of foreign scientific societies and academies of sciences. For many years, one of the leaders of German science.

Born in Kiel. His paternal relatives belonged to an old noble family, which gave the German society educated lawyers, military, scholars, and prominent church leaders.

His father, Wilhelm Planck, was a successful lawyer, a professor at the University of Kiel. Mother, Emma Patzig, was from a family pastor. The ancestors of Max Planck saw their duty in serving the state and the church. There is no doubt that this left a moral imprint on himself.

Up to the age of ten, the Planck family lived in Kiel, the former capital of Holstein. Then William Planck was offered a professorship at the University of Munich, and the family moved to the capital of Bavaria. Max began his studies at Maximilianovskaya Gymnasium and proved himself as a diligent and versatile student.

Despite the traditional emphasis on the humanities in the gymnasiums, natural subjects were taught at the highest level. Young Max Planck literally fell in love with such a serious subject as mathematics and showed great ability to study it.

With all diligence and diligence, the teachers did not see any special abilities of Max, although they characterized him as a diligent and executive student with a strong character.

In addition to the exact sciences, Planck was very fond of music and, without any compulsion, spent a great deal of time at the piano. Until the end of his life, he remained an excellent pianist, although at the end of the gymnasium he made the final choice in favor of mathematics and physics. In September 1874 he became a student at the University of Munich.

At the university, Planck chooses theoretical physics for more in-depth study and, although his mentor, Professor Jolly, convinced his students that they would hardly be able to discover something new in this almost fully studied science, the persistent student decided not to retreat. In this act, the main trait of the character of Planck was to bring everything to the end and not to retreat.

In parallel with the theory  he was also engaged in experimental physics, he studied mathematics in depth. After making sure that at the University of Munich, he received everything that he could offer, Planck decided to continue his education at Berlin University. He was somewhat disappointed with the lectures on physics, so he began to independently study the original works of his scientific mentors Helmholtz and Kirchhoff.

Acquaintance with the works of Rudolf Clausius on the theory of heat prompted him to study thermodynamics. Classes in thermodynamics allowed Planck to get a degree by defending a thesis at his alma mater - the University of Munich. After working as a junior assistant in the Faculty of Physics, the young scientist was appointed Adjunct Professor at the University of Kiel.

This appointment strengthened his financial position, allowed him to be independent and devote a considerable part of his time to research. Max Planck began to seriously engage in scientific activities after taking office as an adjunct professor at the University of Berlin. By this time, his works on thermodynamics became widely known in the world scientific community. Almost simultaneously, in 1888, he was offered the post of director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics.

The desire to get to the point, to comprehend the unknown, extraordinary intuition, inherent only to real scientists, allowed him to make a discovery, literally overturning modern physics for his time.

Many scientists tried to calculate and derive the formula for the state of the body during its heating. The heated body radiates not only heat, but also magnetic oscillations. The pattern of the amplitude of the body oscillations at the time of heating depends on several factors.

Some factors were studied and calculated, but there was no single formula that could be applied in all cases. For this, a universal and completely new unit was needed. In 1900  Max Planck derived this formula, applying a completely new unit of measurement of the amount of energy radiation - a quantum.

The rationale for this formula and the new unit of measurement was called quantum theory, and classical physics before this revolutionary discovery began to be called "physics before Planck". Planck's constant was successfully applied in the further development of physics. Thanks to her, the world received the photoelectric effect of Albert Einstein, the atomic energy of Niels Bohr and many other discoveries.

In 1919  Max Planck became the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1918. This award was a recognition of the greatest discovery for the benefit of mankind.  At seventy, he retires formally, effectively heading the Kaiser Wilhelm Society of Fundamental Sciences and remaining its president from 1930 until his death.

His personal life was very dramatic. The first beloved wife died early, and he entered into a second marriage.

He happened to outlive all his children from his first marriage. The eldest son was killed in World War I, the daughters died during childbirth, and the youngest son was executed at the end of World War II for participating in the attempted murder of Hitler.

Max Planck died of a stroke in Göttingen, not half a year before his ninetieth birthday. Buried in the town cemetery.

Glacier on the Ny-Friesland peninsula, West Spitsbergen Islands. Coordinates 79° 10.5'N    16° 28'E.


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