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Max Karl Ludwig Planck was a German physicist credited for his workon the quantum theory (Wikipedia). Planck was born on April 23, 1858in Kiel, Germany and died on October 4, 1947 in Göttingen, Germany(Encyclopædia Britannica). He was the sixth child of Julius Wilhelm,a Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Kiel, and EmmaPatzig (Wikipedia). Wilhelm was appointed at the University of Munichwhen Planck was barely nine years old (Encyclopædia Britannica).Subsequently, Plank enrolled in the city’s Maximilian Gymnasiumschool. While at the institution, Hermann Müller, a mathematiciantutor, piqued Plank’s interest in mechanics and astronomy(Wikipedia). In particular, Müller taught Planck the principle ofenergy conservation (Wikipedia). Nevertheless, Planck was awell-rounded student and later graduated in 1874.
Planck faced two stumbling blocks before embarking on the study ofphysics. Firstly, he was a gifted pianist and even composed operasand songs. Secondly, his professor discouraged him by stating thatthere was nothing left to be discovered in the field of physics(Wikipedia). Nonetheless, Planck chose to forego music since he feltthat physics inspired his originality to a greater extent thanclassical music (Encyclopædia Britannica). He also reasoned thatunderstanding the basics of science would be sufficient for him(Wikipedia). Consequently, Planck studied at the University of Munichunder the tutelage of Philipp von Jolly (Encyclopædia Britannica).In 1877, he studied at Berlin’s Friedrich Wilhelms University wherehis teachers were Gustav Kirchhoff and Hermann von Helmholtz(Wikipedia). Although Planck was largely unimpressed by hisprofessors` lectures, he earned his doctorate in philosophy in 1879(Nobelprize.org).
In 1880, Planck completed his dissertation and served as an unpaidlecturer at Munich for five years. During this time, his interest inthermodynamics intensified especially with regards to heat theory(Wikipedia). Notably, his father’s connections enabled him to beappointed as an associate professor at the University of Kiel in 1885(Encyclopædia Britannica). Furthermore, Planck continued to buildhis knowledge of Clausius’s works on entropy. He also developed aninterest in physical chemistry and later provided a thermodynamicexplanation of the electrolytic dissociation theory (Wikipedia). In1889, Planck was hired to replace Kirchhoff at the University ofBerlin. Although he became a colleague of Helmholtz, it was not until1892 that Planck became a full professor (Encyclopædia Britannica).
Planck chose to remain in Berlin until 1926 when he retired(Nobelprize.org). In this regard, he had turned down an opportunityto succeed Ludwig Boltzmann at Vienna in 1907 (Wikipedia). Granted,he offered several lectures on theoretical physics at New York-basedColumbia University in 1909 (Wikipedia). Planck became a member ofthe Physical Society while at the University of Berlin. His influenceled to the merging of various Physical Societies in 1898.Consequently, the German Physical Society was formed. Planck servedas the body’s President during 1905-1909 (Wikipedia). In 1894, hebecame a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Planck laterserved as the organization’s Permanent Secretary in 1912(Nobelprize.org).
In 1920, he collaborated with Fritz Haber to form the EmergencyOrganization of German Science. The entity fundraised for the purposeof supporting scientific research (Wikipedia). In 1926, he waselected as a distinguished foreign member of the Royal Society. Twoyears later, the Society awarded Planck the Copley Medal(Nobelprize.org). After his retirement, he was also honored as thePresident of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Promotion of Science(KWG). Planck maintained this post until 1937 (Nobelprize.org).During his tenure at the helm of KWG, he managed to avoid conflictswith the Nazi regime. Moreover, he aligned himself with the GermanPeople’s Party during the period between the First and the SecondWorld Wars (Wikipedia).
In 1894, Planck became intrigued by the occurrence of black-bodyradiation. Some electric companies had commissioned him to developlight bulbs that would yield maximum light using minimum energy(Wikipedia). Almost forty years earlier, Kirchhoff had wondered aboutthe impact that a body’s temperature and radiation frequency had onthe intensity of black-body radiation (Wikipedia). Many prominentscientists had presented their theoretical solutions to this problem.For example, the Rayleigh-Jeans and Wien’s laws unsuccessfullytried to explain the phenomenon (Wikipedia). Planck also proposedvarious explanations. In this respect, he created the Wien-Planck lawby invoking assumptions about an oscillator’s entropy (Wikipedia).
However, the new law failed to satisfy subsequent experimentalevidence. Hence, Planck was obligated to revise his theory(Wikipedia). Consequently, he developed the black-body radiation lawto explain the entire spectrum in 1900. Nevertheless, Planckoverlooked the effects of energy quantization in his initialderivation (Wikipedia). Previously, he had firm conviction in thebelief that the second law of thermodynamics was an absolute, naturallaw (Encyclopædia Britannica). Humbly, he used Boltzmann’sstatistical ideas on the second law to enrich his understanding ofradiation principles.
Besides, Planck assumed that the oscillators absorbed re-emittedenergy in discrete amounts of energy referred to as quanta(Encyclopædia Britannica). This assumption was later called thePlanck postulate (Wikipedia). Consequently, Planck deduced therelationship between the frequency of radiation and emitted energy(Nobleprize.org). The energy of electromagnetic energy emitted by aresonator could be obtained by multiplying its frequency by aparticular factor. This elementary unit came to be known as Planck’sconstant. The discovery of the constant served as the origin ofquantum physics. Planck had managed to confirm previous suspicionsthat a physical system could have discrete energy states. Thequantization of energy also enabled him to define new physical unitssuch as the Planck mass and the Planck length (Wikipedia). Owing tohis admirable accomplishments on the quantum theory, Planck wasawarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918 (Nobelprize.org).
Notwithstanding, Planck failed to integrate the quantum theory intothe framework of classical physics. Despite the endeavors of otherphysicists to discredit his constant, Planck was adamant that hiselementary unit had a particular numerical value. Furthermore, hecontributed towards the acceptance of Albert Einstein’s theory ofrelativity in Germany. In fact, Planck used classical action tosubstantiate the theory. Granted, his adherence to James Maxwell’stheory of electrodynamics had initially led him to reject Einstein’sproposal on photons (Wikipedia). A few years later, Einsteinpresented another contradiction to the classical physics theory bypinpointing the reaction of specific heat when subjected to lowtemperatures. Consequently, Planck teamed up with Walther Nernst andorganized the Solvay Conference. The meeting was held in Brussels in1911 (Wikipedia). At the convention, Einstein managed to prove theexceptions to classical physics theory beyond reasonable doubt.Planck was deeply impressed by Einstein such that he offered theAmerican scientist a professorship at the University of Berlin(Wikipedia).
Planck had supposed that wave mechanics would eventually replace thequantum theory. Several scientists such as Niels Bohr, WernerHeisenberg, and Wolfgang Pauli sought to develop a new interpretationof quantum mechanics (Wikipedia). However, Planck and Einsteinrejected their work. Subsequent scientific experiments and findingsonly served to confirm the effectiveness of Planck’s quantumtheory.
As a family man, Planck married Marie Merck in 1887. He had fourchildren with her, namely, Karl, Emma, Grete, and Erwin. During thistime, he cultivated close friendships with scientists such as LiseMeitner and Otto Hahn (Wikipedia). He also rekindled his interest inmusic by having joint performances with his fellow researchers.Sadly, Marie died in 1909 (Brandon). Two years later, Planck marriedMarga von Hoesslin, who bore him a fifth child named Hermann. Plancksuffered considerable losses during his life and scientific career(Brandon). For example, his son Erwin was captured by French forcesin 1914 (Wikipedia). In addition, his firstborn son Karl died inbattle during the First World War. In 1917, his daughter Grete diedduring childbirth. Furthermore, her twin sister Emma succumbed tobirth pains in 1919. Finally, his son Erwin was executed in 1945 forplotting a botched attempt to assassinate German tyrant, Adolf Hitler(Wikipedia). These losses had a profound impact on Planck as hewitnessed the end of his legacy (Siegfried).
Indeed, Planck will be remembered for his massive contributions tothe field of quantum physics. His upbringing set him up on the courseto scientific excellence due to his father’s influence. Subsequentobstacles failed to discourage him from his passion for physics.Arguably, his stints at the Universities of Munich and Berlinprovided the final piece in his discovery of Planck’s constant. Hisbrilliance and charisma allowed him to hold numerous leadershippositions in various bodies. Although he was beset by tragedy, hisfriendships with other scientists tempered his misery and catapultedhim to worldwide fame as the father of quantum physics.
Brown, Brandon. Max Planck’s debt. OUPblog. 18 Aug. 2015.Web. 13 Jul. 2016.
"Max Planck – Biographical." Nobelprize.org. NobelMedia AB 2014. Web. 13 Jul. 2016.
"Max Planck." Encyclopædia Britannica. EncyclopædiaBritannica Online.Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016.Web. 13 Jul. 2016
"Max Planck." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.18 Jun 2016. Web. 13 Jul. 2016.
Siegfried, Tom. Max Planck, originator of quantum theory, tormentedby war and personal loss. ScienceNews.org. 13 Jun. 2015. Web.13 Jul. 2016.