Wilhelm Vienna

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Wilhelm Vienna (1911)

Wilhelm "Willy" Carl Werner Otto Fritz Franz Vienna (born January 13, 1864 in Gaffken near Fischhausen in Samland , East Prussia ; † August 30, 1928 in Munich ) was a German physicist. He mainly researched the laws of thermal radiation and received the Nobel Prize in Physics for it in 1911 .


In 1866 Wilhelm Vienna's family moved to Drachenstein near Rastenburg , where his father Carl Vienna had bought an estate . Wilhelm attended the grammar school in Rastenburg from 1879 . He had to drop out of high school due to poor performance, but received private lessons from the teachers. From 1880 to 1882 he attended the old town high school (Königsberg) .

From 1882 he studied physics at the Georg August University in Göttingen and the Friedrich Wilhelms University in Berlin . From 1883 to 1885 he worked at Hermann von Helmholtz's laboratory . 1886 doctorate he became Dr. phil. From 1889 he was assistant to von Helmholtz at the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt . He completed his habilitation in Berlin in 1892.

Since 1896 private lecturer with Adolf Wüllner at the RWTH Aachen , in 1899 he was appointed to its chair by the Hessian Ludwig University of Gießen ; but he was appointed on February 15, 1900, on April 1, 1900 at the Julius Maximilians University of Würzburg, succeeding Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen at the Physics Institute of the Philosophical Faculty II, where he became friends with Maximilian von Frey . In 1913/14, Vienna was rector of the University of Würzburg , where he also belonged to the Senate around 1916 and, as a nationally-minded professor, supported a German Völkischer Verband ( Association of German Völkischer Bünde ) founded on July 30, 1919 . At the end of 1919, Vienna went to the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich , where in 1920 he again succeeded Röntgen as a university professor.

Vienna was very active in scientific committees. In 1910 he was chairman of the Society of German Natural Scientists and Doctors , 1920–1922 chairman of the German Physical Society . During the First World War he was involved in a leading position together with other conservative scientists for the interests of the German Reich and to suppress, in particular, the English influence on German science. In the following, however, he distanced himself from the more radical views of his comrade-in-arms, Philipp Lenard , which later led to the propagation of " German Physics ". In 1918 he proposed Albert Einstein and Hendrik Antoon Lorentz for the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Vienna died in 1928 at the age of 64. He was buried in the Munich forest cemetery. His cousin Max Wien was one of the pioneers of high frequency technology . Wilhelm Wien's son Karl Wien became known as an extreme mountaineer .


Vienna developed the Vienna Displacement Law in 1893/94 , and the Vienna Radiation Law from 1894 to 1896 to describe the thermal radiation emitted by a black body as a function of the wavelength . From 1898, Vienna developed the basics of mass spectroscopy while working on canal beams and identified a positively charged particle with the mass of the hydrogen atom, the proton. Based on the work of Heaviside and Searle, Vienna took the view in his work from 1900 that all physical processes are electromagnetic in nature and that the mass of a body can be calculated completely from its electromagnetic energy , which is an important step towards the equivalence of mass and Energy was. As a staunch supporter of an electromagnetic worldview, Vienna also dealt intensively with the problems of the ether theories of the time and in 1904 developed differential equations for the electrodynamics of moving bodies . It is therefore one of the forerunners of the special theory of relativity .

In 1911 Vienna received the Nobel Prize in Physics for work on thermal radiation .



  • A New Relationship of Black Body Radiation to the Second Law of Heat. In: Meeting reports of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin, publ. D. Kgl. Akad. D. Wiss., Berlin 1893, first half-volume 1893, pp. 55–62 (first publication of Vienna's “displacement law”).
  • Temperature and entropy of radiation. In: Annals of Physics and Chemistry. New episode. Volume 52, 1894, pp. 132-165 (first publication of Vienna's radiation law for the energy distribution of radiation as a function of its wavelength or frequency).
  • About the energy distribution in the emission spectrum of a black body. In: Annals of Physics and Chemistry. New episode. Volume 58, 1896, pp. 612-669 (first, with O. Lummer in 1895, details of the principles according to which a so-called black body can be constructed).
  • as editor: Annalen der Physik. From 1906.
  • About the questions which concern the translational movement of the light ether . In: Annals of Physics . tape 301 , no. 3 , 1898, p. I – XVIII ( on Wikisource ).
  • About the possibility of an electromagnetic justification of mechanics . In: Annals of Physics . tape 310 , no. 7 , 1900, p. 501-513 , doi : 10.1002 / andp.19013100703 ( on Wikisource ).
  • About the differential equations of electrodynamics for moving bodies . In: Annals of Physics . tape 318 , no. 4 , 1904, pp. 641-662, 663-668 ( Part I and Part II on Wikisource).
  • Reply to the criticism of Mr. M. Abraham . In: Annals of Physics . tape 319 , no. 8 , 1904, pp. 635-637 ( on Wikisource ).
  • To the electron theory . In: Physikalische Zeitschrift . tape 5 , no. 14 , 1904, pp. 393-395 ( on Wikisource ).
  • Aims and methods of theoretical physics. Ceremonial speech to celebrate the three hundred and thirty-two years of existence of the Königl. Julius Maximilians University of Würzburg. Held on May 11, 1914. Stürtz, Würzburg 1914.
  • The more recent development of our universities and their position in German intellectual life. Speech for the ceremony in the new university on June 29, 1914 to celebrate the centenary of Würzburg's membership in Bavaria. Stürtz, Würzburg 1915.
  • A look back . In: From the life and work of a physicist . Joh. Ambr. Barth, 1930 ( full text at Zeno.org - autobiography from 1927).


Web links

Commons : Wilhelm Wien  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Wilhelm Wien  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ University of Würzburg
  2. Horst Teichmann (1982), p. 796.
  3. ^ Holger Münzel: Max von Frey. Life and work with special consideration of his sensory-physiological research. Würzburg 1992 (= Würzburg Medical History Research. Volume 53), p. 206.
  4. ^ Walter Jung: Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund (DVSTB), 1919-1924 / 35 . In: Historical Lexicon of Bavaria.
  5. ^ Walter Ziegler : The University of Würzburg in transition (1918-20). In: Peter Baumgart (Ed.): Four hundred years of the University of Würzburg. A commemorative publication. Degener & Co. (Gerhard Gessner), Neustadt an der Aisch 1982 (= sources and contributions to the history of the University of Würzburg. Volume 6), ISBN 3-7686-9062-8 , pp. 179-251; here: pp. 185 f., 190 and 225.
  6. Stefan L. Wolff: Physicist in the "War of the Spirits". Retrieved July 30, 2017 .
  7. Grave of the Vienna family in the Munich forest cemetery (Grabfeld 178, location , pictures )
  8. ^ Wilhelm Wien: About positive electrons and the existence of high atomic weights . In: Annals of Physics . tape 318 (4) , 1904, pp. 669-677 .
  9. Oliver Heaviside: XXXIX. On the electromagnetic effects due to the motion of electrification through a dielectric . In: Philosophical Magazine . tape 27 , no. 167 , April 1, 1889, ISSN  1941-5982 , pp. 324-339 , doi : 10.1080 / 14786448908628362 .
  10. GFC Searle MA: XLII. On the steady motion of an electrified ellipsoid . In: Philosophical Magazine . tape 44 , no. 269 , October 1, 1897, ISSN  1941-5982 , p. 329-341 , doi : 10.1080 / 14786449708621072 .