Nobel Prize Recipient. Max Planck received world-wide recognition as a German scientist who received the 1918 Nobel Prize. According to the Nobel Prize Committee, he received the coveted award "in recognition of the services he rendered to the advancement of Physics by his discovery of energy quanta." He accepted the award in 1919 as the originator of the quantum theory, which changed the focus of physics. Born Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, his father was a college professor teaching Constitutional Law at the University of Munich, and both his grandfathers were college professors. After excelling in local schools in Munich, he studied at the Universities of Munich and Berlin, earning a doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Munich in 1879. Having the gift of perfect pitch, he became a talented pianist and toyed with the idea of a musical career, but instead chose science. Beginning his career as an unpaid privatdozent at the University of Munich from 1880 to 1885, he became Associate Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Kiel from 1885 until 1889 before moving to Berlin University after noted scientist Gustav Robert Kirchhoff's death, remaining there until his retirement in 1926. Early in his career he did research and published papers on entropy, on thermoelectroicity and on the theory of dilute solutions. While at Berlin University in 1900, he developed “Plank's Constant,” thus resolving the long-standing problem that was stated as “When a black body, a term coined by Kirchhoff in 1862, is heated, electromagnetic radiation is emitted with a spectrum corresponding to the temperature of the body, and not to its composition. Calculating the form of the spectrum using then-known physical laws gave an unreasonable result; the radiation in the high-frequency area of the spectrum became infinite.” He solved the problem by introducing the theory of “quanta” or that radiation consists of quanta with specific energies determined by new fundamental constant or Plank's Constant. His research on the quantum theory, as it came to be known, was published in the “Annuals of Physics,” which was summarized in two books “Thermodynamics” in 1897 and “Theory of Heat Radiation” in 1906. Of course, his publications were printed in German before translated into English. In 1909 he was asked to travel to Columbia University in New York City to lecture, and a series of these lectures were later published. For only a total of 20 graduate students, he held a informal lecture class. Of the twenty students, most became noted scientists including Max Von Laue, Nobel Prize in Physics for 1914 and Walther Bothe, Nobel Prize in Physics for 1954. Planck married twice and had five children including a set of twin daughters. His oldest son died in World War I and both of the twins died in child birth, with all dying before 1919. On January 30, 1945 for the role that he played in a failed attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler in 1944, the older of his two remaining sons was executed. During World War II, he felt a duty to remain in his homeland even those many scientists left in self-imposed exile. He openly opposed the Nazis polices, particularly as to the persecution of the Jewish population. In the last weeks of the war in 1945, his home was completely destroyed by Allied bombings. Besides the Nobel Prize, he was elected in 1926 to Foreign Membership of the Royal Society, being awarded the Society’s Copley Medal in 1928. In 1948 the German Scientific Institution of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society was renamed the Max Planck Society. Planck had been the president twice of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, which today has 83 institution involved in a wide range of scientific research. Done with a very modern technique, a statue of him is located on the campus of Humbolt University in Berlin.
Bio by: Linda Davis