Leopold Infeld

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Leopold Infeld

Leopold Infeld (born August 20, 1898 in Krakow ; died January 15, 1968 in Warsaw ) was a Polish theoretical physicist specializing in relativity .


Infeld grew up in a traditionally Jewish family in the Polish city of Krakow. Krakow was part of Austria-Hungary at the time and is one of the oldest university cities in Europe. He studied physics in Kraków and Berlin , received his doctorate in 1923 under Władysław Natanson at the University of Kraków and then worked as a teacher in his Polish homeland. In 1930 he became a lecturer at the Polish University of Lviv . In 1933 he went to England and in 1936 to the USA and worked in Princeton together with Albert Einstein on problems of the theory of relativity. Specifically, it was about the extent to which the equations of motion are contained in the field equations.

When Infeld did not get a job extension in 1937 and thus ran into financial problems, he suggested to Einstein that they write a popular book on the basic ideas of physics, which Einstein enthusiastically responded to and from which the well-known book The Evolution of Physics came into being.

In 1938 Infeld received a professorship in Toronto . But when he wanted to take a research trip to Poland, he was accused in a press campaign that he had Communist sympathies and ultimately secret knowledge about the atomic bomb, which he should have received from Einstein, the Soviet Union wanted to deliver. This allegation was even debated in the Canadian parliament. But there is no doubt that Infeld, as the theoretician of the theory of relativity, had no special knowledge of the atomic bomb and he was never involved in such projects, especially since the construction principle of this bomb was already known in 1950 in the Soviet Union. He lost his Canadian citizenship. After he had applied in vain to suspend his professorship in Toronto, he gave it up completely in 1950. These incidents are documented in Infeld's 1963 autobiographical book Leben mit Einstein .

After this campaign, Infeld accepted a professorship at the University of Warsaw , which he held until 1967. He was instrumental in setting up theoretical physics in Poland. Until his death he was at the Institute of Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences .

In 1955, Infeld was a co-signer of the Russell Einstein Manifesto . His book about the mathematician Évariste Galois , Who the Gods Love , which he wrote in Toronto, evaluates source material that has not been used so far, and Einstein is said to have greatly appreciated this book. Since it is in the form of a novel, its source value can only be assessed with difficulty.

In 1934, together with Max Born , he developed the Born-Infeld theory, a relativistic, non-linear generalization of electrodynamics, which was supposed to make the electromagnetic self-energy of the electron (or point charges in general) finite. It later found new application in string theory (gauge fields on D-branes).

His doctoral students include Andrzej Trautman (1959), Alfred Schild (1946) and Wiesław Woźnicki (1958).

In 1995 the University of Toronto rehabilitated Leopold Infeld by posthumously appointing him professor emeritus .


  • With Albert Einstein: The Evolution of Physics. Simon and Schuster, 1938.
    • German edition: The evolution of physics. Translated by Werner Preusser. Vienna 1973 (first German edition Vienna (Zsolnay Verlag) 1950 and Leiden 1949).
  • Life with Einstein - the contours of a memory. (Original title: Sketches from the past, translated by Walter Hacker) Vienna 1969.
  • Albert Einstein, his work and its influence on our world. Scribner, New York 1950.
  • Quest - the evolution of a scientist. To Autobiography. Victor Gollancz 1941, 2nd edition 1980, AMS Chelsea Publishing, ISBN 0-8284-0309-0 .
  • with Jerzy Plebanski : Motion and Relativity. London, Pergamon Press 1960.
  • with Max Born : memories of Einstein. Berlin, Union Verlag 1969.
  • Why I left Canada: reflections on science and politics. Queen's University Press, Montreal 1978.
  • Whom the god's love - the story of Evariste Galois. Whittlesey House, New York 1948.
  • The World in modern science: matter and quanta. Victor Gollancz, 1934 (foreword by Einstein).


  • Eryk Infeld (editor), Iwo Białynicki-Birula, Andrzej Trautman: Leopold Infeld: his life and scientific work. Polish Scientific Publishers, Warsaw 1978.

Web links

Commons : Leopold Infeld  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Einstein, Infeld, Banesh Hoffmann: The gravitational equations and the problem of motion. Annals of Mathematics, Vol. 39, 1938, pp. 65-100.
  2. M. Born, L. Infeld: Foundations of the New Field Theory Proc. R. Soc. Lond., Vol. 144, 1934, pp. 425-451
  3. 1933–1995, professor in Toruń