Physicist. Nobel Laureate 1925. He began his academic career at the University of Heidelberg, where he studied chemistry, and then moved to the University of Berlin, to study physics, where he received his Ph.D. in 1906. He briefly worked at the University of Frankfurt am Main and then returned to Berlin as a Privatdozent in 1911 and was named full professor in 1916. During this time in Berlin, he worked on the research (with Gustav Hertz) on inelastic electron collisions in gases that led to the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics to both men in 1925. He volunteered for World War I and was injured in a gas attack in 1917 while working with Fritz Haber's chemical warfare battalion, and was awarded the Iron Cross First Class. In 1920, he was named Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Göttingen. With his student Edward Condon, he developed the Franck-Condon Principle in quantum mechanics. In 1933, after the Nazi takeover, he raised an uproar by resigning from his post due to his Jewish background, though he was semi-protected due to his veterans status. In the same year, he moved to the United States as a Full Professor at the Johns Hopkins University and then to the University of Chicago in 1938. While at Chicago, he was tapped to be the head of the metallurgical laboratory in the Manhattan Project and worked on the construction of the plutonium atomic bomb. However, after the German surrender, he had second thoughts and went to the US Secretary of War with the so-called Franck Report, in which he and other scientists recommended against the use of the atomic bomb vs Japan. After the war, he focused his work on photosynthesis, as he was upset by the use of the bomb in World War II. He became Emeritus Professor in 1947 and was awarded the Max Planck Medal in 1951 and the Rumford Prize in 1955, the latter for his photosynthesis work.
Bio by: Kenneth Gilbert
Dagmar Franck Von Hippel