German Scientists

Max Planck (1858-1947): discovered quanta; the publication of his findings in 1900 is
viewed as the beginning of quantum mechanics.
Arnold Sommerfeld (1868-1951): worked with Bohr on a new model of the atom that
included non-circular orbits.
Lise Meitner (1878-1968): provided a theoretical description of the process of nuclear
fission, along with Otto Frisch. Forced to flee Germany in 1938.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955): created the theory of relativity and won the Nobel Prize in
1921 for work on the photoelectric effect. He fled Germany soon after Hitler came to
Max Born (1882-1970): collaborated extensively with Bohr on the Copenhagen
Interpretation of quantum mechanics that revolutionized scientific thinking by putting
an end to the absolute rule of determinism.
Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961): developed his famous wave equation in an attempt to
circumvent the random nature of “quantum leaps” associated with Bohr’s model of the
atom. Ultimately, Schrödinger’s wave equation and Heisenberg’s matrix mechanics
were proven to be equivalent.
James Chadwick (1891-1974): discovered the neutron in 1932 and received the Nobel
Prize for this discovery in 1935. He was the key scientist of the British atomic bomb
Louis de Broglie (1892-1987): put forward the important idea in his 1924 doctoral thesis
that electrons had properties of both waves and particles.
Irene Joliot-Curie (1897-1956): conducted critical experiments in radioactivity along
with her husband Fredric Joliot, including how one atomic element can be changed
into another through exposure to radiation.
Leo Szilard (1898-1964): credited with the idea of using a chain reaction to construct an
atomic bomb. Left Hungary for the U.S. in the 1930s.
Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958): most famous for the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which states
that no two particles can occupy the same “quantum state”.
George Uhlenbeck (1900-1988): discovered and explained electron spin along with
Samuel Goudsmit.
P. M. A. Dirac (1901-1984): formulated relativistic quantum physics by applying Einstein’s
ideas to quantum theory. He shared a Nobel Prize with Erwin Schrödinger in 1933.
Enrico Fermi (1901-1954): did important work on artificial transmutations of radioactive
elements in his native Italy. Fled to the U.S. to escape growing anti-Semitism in Italy (his
wife was Jewish) where he made significant contributions to the Manhattan Project.
Sam Goudsmit (1902-1978): discovered and explained electron spin along with George
Uhlenbeck. He was also the leader of the Allies’ mission to investigate the status of the
Nazi bomb program after WWII.
Fritz Houtermans (1903-1966): worked with George Gamow and others on alpha
particle decay and absorption; pointed out the possibility of initiating chain reactions
with neutrons as early as 1932. Fled Nazi occupied Germany in 1933.
George Gamow (1904-1968): first to propose the liquid drop model of the atomic
nucleus later used by Bohr to explain fission. His significant contributions to astrophysics
included work on the big bang theory.
Christian Møller (1904-1981): contributed to atomic and nuclear theory, but best known
for his work on relativity.
J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967): head of the American atomic bomb program.
Rudolph Peierls (1907-1995): derived the dispersion formula for nuclear reactions with P.
G. L. Kapur. Fled Germany in 1933 and later worked for the British atomic bomb
Victor Weisskopf (1908- ): major figure in theoretical physics, especially in nuclear and
elementary particle physics. He emigrated from Europe to the U.S. in 1937 and later
worked at Los Alamos on the development of the atomic bomb.
Edward Teller (1908- ): worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos in the
Theoretical Physics Division.
Hendrik Casimir (1909- ): made important fundamental contributions to applied
mathematics, theoretical physics and low temperature physics.

Sources: IS 364: The Atomic Era, “Great Names of the Atomic Era” at “Biographies of Persons in Copenhagen” compiled by Harry Lustig

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