Physics of yesterday

A brief history of Physics in Frankfurt

The University of Frankfurt is a comparatively young university which was founded at october 16th in 1914 by a patronage of the citizens of Frankfurt. Among the scientific assiciations which played a central role in founding the university, the "Physikalischer Verein" (physics association), which was founded in 1824, is to be mentioned specifically. In 1908, the PV had moved into its new association building at Kettenhofweg 132-244. Within this new building, members of the PV as well as Frankfurt's youth were taught physical and chemical knowledge. In addition to the institute of physics, the building also contained an institute of chemistry, an institute of electrotechnics, an institute of meteorology as well as an observatory for the department of astronomy. The PV with its employees thus became the core of the department of physics.

The first physics professors were Wachsmuth (employee of the PV and an experimental physicist), who was later elected to be the university's first president, and Max von Laue, a theoretical physicist who had been newly appointed to the university and came from Zürich. With Max von laue, the university had won a scientist with both a great reputation and an extraordinary personality. 1915 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics (retroactively given for 1914).

Despite the university's short history, Frankfurt's physicists were able to gain immortality in the world of physics. Not only did important physicists (besides Laue, Frankfurt was home to six future Nobel laureates like Max Born, Otto Stern, Hans Bethe, Gerd Binnig, Horst Störmer and Peter Grünberg) leave their mark during their time in Frankfurt, in 1922 the university was even the venue of a literal "Stern-stunde" (a magical moment). Otto Stern developed the basics for the crossed molecular beam method and both he and Walther Gerlach conducted the world-reknowned "Stern-Gerlach-Experiment" in Frankfurt. This way, physicists from Frankfurt contributed decisively to the development of modern quantum mechanics. 


100 Jahre Physik an der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main 1914-2014 (german)
Hrsg.: Klaus Bethge, Claudia Freudenberger (2014)

Otto Stern
Von: Horst Schmidt-Böcking und Karin Reich und Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt