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 Otto Stern

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Otto Stern

Birth
Death 18 Aug 1969 (aged 81)
Berkeley, Alameda County, California, USA
Burial El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, California, USA
Plot Urn Garden, Row 12, Grave 69A
Memorial ID 10904027 View Source
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Nobel Prize in Physics Recipient. Otto Stern received world-wide notoriety as a German-born American nuclear physicist, who received 82 nominations for the Nobel Prize between 1925 and 1943, when he received the award. He ranks first with the number of nominations received by one candidate receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics. He received the Nobel Prize "for the development of the molecular beam as a tool for studying the characteristics of molecules and for measuring the magnetic moment of the proton." Born the oldest of five children, his parents, Oskar Stern and Eugenie Rosenthal, were wealthy grain merchants of Polish-Jewish ancestry. Shortly after his birth, his family relocated to Beslau, Germany, which is now part of Poland. After studying physical chemistry in 1906, he earned his Doctorate Degree from the University of Breslau in 1912. He joined with noted-scientist, Albert Einstein at the University of Prague, becoming his first pupil. This followed by the University of Zurich in Switzerland, where he held the post of Privatdocent of Physical Chemistry at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in 1913. Fulfilling his military duty during World War I, Stern was stationed in Poland during 1916 as a military weather observer while writing scientific papers. The next year, he went to the University of Frankfurt as Privatdocent of Theoretical Physics. After performing numerous experiments together as a team, he and Walther Gerlach broke into a new path of physics in February of 1922 with their historic molecular-beam experiment by "using their cigar smoke and silver mirrors." He had conceived this hypothesis in 1921 but the two scientists conducted the experiment in 1922. A huge monument, which was unveiled in February of 2002, has bronze reliefs of each scientists, marking the spot in Frankfurt that this happened. The five papers reporting this work, which soon became known as the Stern-Gerlach experiment, received world-wide attention and established Stern's rank high among physicists. From there, he was an Associated Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Rostock in Germany, becoming the Professor of Physical Chemistry and Director of the Laboratory in 1923 at University of Hamburg. With the radical political changes with the Nazi Party coming to power in Germany, he left that position in 1933 to relocate to the United States being appointed as Research Professor of Physics at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh where he remained until becoming professor emeritus in 1945 and retiring to California. He became a United States citizen in 1939, and serving as a consult to the War Department during World War II. Although he traveled to Europe, he never returned to Germany, thus never collected a pension due him from the German government. His colleague Gerlach stayed in Germany as World War II started. Although he never joined the Nazi Party, Gerlach became head of a nuclear program in 1944, and after the war, he and nine other scientists were detained at the Farm Hall in England by Allied Forces in hope of learning of their research. In the 1950s Gerlach was one of eighteen German scientists to sign a legal international pack against arming the West German army with tactical nuclear weapon. Stern's Nobel Prize citation omitted any mention of the Stern-Gerlach effect to deny Gerlach any credit as he continued his work in Nazi Germany; this may have been the reason it took 82 nominations for Stern to received this award. Due to World War II, his 1943 Nobel Prize was the first presented since 1939. Attempting to met the daily needs of colleagues in Germany, Stern sent packages after the war to them. He and Gerlach had a reunion in 1960 in Zurich, Switzerland. While enjoying an evening at the cinema, he had a heart attack and died a few days later at the hospital. He was cremated and his ashes are buried in the cemetery. Gerlach wrote part of Stern's obituary.

Bio by: Linda Davis

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Ginny M
  • Added: 2 May 2005
  • Find a Grave Memorial 10904027
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10904027/otto-stern : accessed ), memorial page for Otto Stern (17 Feb 1888–18 Aug 1969), Find a Grave Memorial ID 10904027, citing Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .