Max von Laue

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Max von Laue (born October 9, 1879 in Pfaffendorf (today Koblenz ), † April 24, 1960 in West Berlin ) was a German physicist and Nobel Prize winner .

Max von Laue (1929)


His parents were Julius Laue (1848–1927) and his wife Wilhelmine Zerrenner (1853–1899), a daughter of the Magdeburg businessman Theodor Zerrenner (1823–1893) and Auguste Rettig , who was raised to the nobility in 1913 .


From 1898 von Laue studied physics and mathematics at the universities of Strasbourg , Göttingen , Munich and Berlin . In 1903 he received his doctorate from Max Planck in Berlin on the theory of interference on plane-parallel plates, passed his state examination for teaching in 1905 in Göttingen and in the same year took on an assistant position for his doctoral supervisor in Berlin. After his habilitation in 1906 he dealt with Albert Einstein's theory of relativity and in 1907 was able to interpret the Fizeau experiment in the sense of the theory of relativity by applying the relativistic addition theorem . In 1909 he joined Arnold Sommerfeld as a private lecturer at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich . Other important contributions to the theory of relativity were u. a. that there are no rigid bodies , considerations on the relativistic dynamics and the twin paradox . He also wrote one of the first textbooks on special and general relativity.

In 1912, together with Walter Friedrich and Paul Knipping, he discovered the diffraction of X-rays on crystals . This proved that X-rays spread like a wave . In addition, it was possible for the first time to deduce the crystal structure from the diffraction patterns . For his work, von Laue received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1914 . In October of the same year he was appointed to the chair for theoretical physics at the newly founded University of Frankfurt am Main . In 1919 von Laue returned from Frankfurt as a professor at the University of Berlin , where he expanded his original geometric theory of X-ray interference into what is known as dynamic theory . Also in 1919 he began working at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics , where he took over the position of Deputy Director in 1922 as Albert Einstein's representative. In 1921 he was honored with the Adolf von Baeyer Memorial Coin and in 1932 with the Max Planck Medal . From 1925 to 1929 he was a member of the Senate of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Advancement of Science (KWG). During the rule of National Socialism , he stood up for Albert Einstein and against German physics (for example at the conference of the German Physical Society in September 1933 in Berlin). In 1940 he put himself in danger when he conspiratorially informed Edna Carter in the USA by postcard that Fritz Houtermans had "appeared" ( had been released from Gestapo detention). In it, he asked Carter, in a slightly coded form, to forward the good news to his wife Charlotte Houtermans at Vassar College . In 1943 he retired early. He then wrote a history of physics that later appeared as a book. At the end of the war he was interned by the British as part of Operation Epsilon in Farm Hall and then in the Albersmeyer house in Alswede .

One of Max von Laue's last recordings, taken during the Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau in 1959
60 Pfennig special stamp of the Deutsche Bundespost (1983) , image of X-ray diffraction on the crystal lattice

After the end of the war he became an honorary professor at the University of Göttingen and took an active part in the reorganization of the German scientific community. From 1946 to 1949 he was chairman of the newly founded German Physical Society in the British Zone . He participated in the amalgamation of the physical societies in West Germany to form the Association of German Physical Societies and in the re-establishment of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt in Braunschweig . In 1951 von Laue became director at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin-Dahlem. In 1952 he received the X-ray plaque from the city of Remscheid and was appointed to the order Pour le Mérite for science and the arts . The Technical University of Berlin awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1953 , and the Free University of Berlin in 1958 an honorary citizen. On April 12, 1957, he was one of the signatories of the Göttingen Declaration against the planned nuclear armament of the Bundeswehr. The Laue-Langevin Institute in Grenoble bears his name. Shortly before his death, the Max-von-Laue-Gymnasium in Koblenz was named after him. From 1959 to 1960 he was a member of the Advisory Board of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation .

Max von Laue's grave in the city cemetery in Göttingen

Max von Laue died in 1960 as a result of a car accident in which he was involved on the AVUS on the way to Wannsee . His grave is in the Göttingen city cemetery , where other Nobel Prize winners are buried. Walther Meißner gave a funeral speech at the memorial event of the Max Planck Society on October 15, 1961 . Laue's estate is in the archive of the Max Planck Society in Berlin-Dahlem.

He was married and had two children, including the historian Theodore H. von Laue (1916-2000) , who had lived in the United States since 1937 .

Historical anecdote

Than during the Second World War, German troops in April 1940, the Danish capital Copenhagen occupied, in the laboratory of has Niels Bohr working Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy the gold Nobel Prize medals of the German physicist Max von Laue and James Franck in aqua regia resolved to take out the Prevent access by the Nazis. Von Laue and Franck were in opposition to National Socialism and had entrusted their medals to Niels Bohr in order to prevent confiscation in Germany; the Hitler government forbade all Germans to accept or wear the Nobel Prize after Carl von Ossietzky had received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935. After the end of the war, de Hevesy extracted the gold dissolved in the aqua regia and handed it over to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences , which made new medals from it and gave it back to von Laue and Franck.

Honors and memberships (selection)

Publications (selection)

  • The principle of relativity , Vieweg, 1911
  • The theory of relativity , Vol. 1 Special Theory of Relativity , 7th edition, Vieweg, 1965 (1st edition 1919)
  • The theory of relativity , Vol. 2 General theory of relativity , 5th edition, Vieweg, 1965 (1st edition 1921)
  • The interference of X-rays , Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, Leipzig 1923 (3rd edition as X-ray interference , Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, Frankfurt (Main) 1960)
  • Theory of Radiology , Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft 1925 (Vol. 6 by Erich Marx (Ed.) Handbuch der Radiologie )
  • with Richard von Mises (Ed.) Stereoscopic images of crystal lattices , Springer, 1926
  • The interference of X-rays and electron beams. Five lectures , Springer, 1935
  • Matter waves and their interferences , Leipzig 1944
  • Theory of superconductivity , Springer 1947, 2nd edition 1949
  • X-ray wave fields in crystals , Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, Berlin 1959
  • History of physics . Universitätsverlag, Bonn 1946, 4th edition Ullstein, 1960
  • Collected writings and lectures . 3 volumes. Vieweg, Braunschweig 1961


See also

Web links

Commons : Max von Laue  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Arnulf Scriba: Max von Laue. Tabular curriculum vitae in the LeMO ( DHM and HdG )
  2. ^ A b Friedrich Beck : Max von Laue . ( Memento from February 22, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) In: Klaus Bethge, Horst Klein (Ed.): Physicists and astronomers in Frankfurt . Frankfurt am Main 1989.
  3. Misha Shifman: Standing Together In Troubled Times: Unpublished Letters Of Pauli, Einstein, Franck And Others . World Scientific, Hackensack, New Jersey, 2017, ISBN 978-981-3201-00-2 , p. 76.
  4. ^ Lübbecke and the British Control Commission in 1945
  5. Katharina Zeitz: Max von Laue (1879-1960). Its importance for the reconstruction of German science after the Second World War . Steiner, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-515-08814-8 , p. 232.
  6. ^ Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. 2nd edition. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 978-3-596-16048-8 , p. 358.
  7. Walther Meißner's funeral speech
  8. ^ The Nobel Medals and the Medal for the Prize in Economics ., accessed May 27, 2013.
  9. Holger Krahnke: The members of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen 1751-2001 (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 3, Vol. 246 = Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematical-Physical Class. Episode 3, vol. 50). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-82516-1 , p. 146.
  10. APS Fellow Archive. Retrieved February 9, 2020 .
  11. ^ Corresponding member BAdW
  12. Book of Members 1780 – present, Chapter L. (PDF; 1.1 MB) In: American Academy of Arts and Sciences ( Retrieved February 24, 2018 .
  13. John W. Anthony, Richard A. Bideaux, Kenneth W. Bladh, Monte C. Nichols: Laueite . (PDF; 66.6 kB) In: Handbook of Mineralogy, Mineralogical Society of America , 2001.