Famous German Physicists

Ask people around the globe as to who is the most famous physicist they know of, and without a doubt the answer would be Albert Einstein! That perhaps best explains the contribution of German physicists in the world forum. Given the fact that Einstein’s influence has been magnanimous, one cannot forget the works of other brilliantly-minded German physicists, their revolutionary work creating a stir in the study of this particular branch of science. Max Planck, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Heinrich Hertz, Sir Rudolf Ernst Peierls, Werner Heisenberg are some of the gems of physics that Germany gave the world. Each of them and many others have contributed in all the major branches of physics, classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, theory of relativity and electromagnetism. It is through their observation, research and experiments that they discovered physical laws and came up with theories and practical experiments that best explained the functioning of matter and related concepts. Gravitational force, nuclear interactions, electromagnetism were unknown phenomena that were eventually perceived, detected, explored and later presented to the world by physicists. Go through this section and update yourself with an array of German physicists, their life and works.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein
Famous As: Developer of Theory of Relativity
Birthdate: March 14, 1879
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ulm, Germany
Died: April 18, 1955
Deemed as the most influential physicist of the 20th century, the German-born physicist Albert Einstein was one of the greatest minds to have ever lived. Even his name is now synonymous with the term genius. The father of Modern Physics is credited with developing the theory of relativity and explaining the photoelectric effect. The latter won him the Nobel Prize.

 2 Werner Heisenberg

Werner Heisenberg
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: December 5, 1901
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Würzburg, Germany
Died: February 1, 1976
German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg is best known for pioneering quantum mechanics. He received the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics. He had also helped Germany plan nuclear weapon strategies during World War II and was the director of what is now known as the Max Planck Institute for Physics.

 3 Carl F. Gauss

Carl F. Gauss
Famous As: Mathematician, Physicist
Birthdate: April 30, 1777
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Brunswick, Germany
Died: February 23, 1855

German mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss is remembered for his work in math and science. Known as the Princeps mathematicorum, he laid down tenets such as the Gauss's Law. He had exhibited his talent since an early age and had completed writing Disquisitiones Arithmeticae by 21.

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 4 Max Planck

Max Planck
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: April 23, 1858
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kiel, Germany
Died: October 4, 1947

German theoretical physicist Max Planck is remembered for originating the quantum theory of physics, which earned him the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics. He laid down concepts such as the Planck constant and the Planck postulate. The Kaiser Wilhelm Society was later renamed Max Planck Society in his honor.

 5 Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler
Famous As: Astronomer Best Known for his Laws of Plantery Motion
Birthdate: December 27, 1571
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Weil der Stadt, Germany
Died: November 15, 1630

This 17th-century German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer is remembered for his pathbreaking work on optics. He invented a developed version of the refracting telescope. He also laid down Kepler's laws of planetary motion and wrote Astronomia Nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae.

 6 Wilhelm Rontgen

Wilhelm Rontgen
Famous As: Mechanical engineer, Physicist
Birthdate: March 27, 1845
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lennep, Remscheid, Germany
Died: February 10, 1923

Wilhelm Rontgen was a German physicist and mechanical engineer. He is best remembered for producing and detecting X-rays for which he was honored with the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. His discovery of X-rays remains one of the greatest achievements in the field of medical science.

 7 Max Born

Max Born
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: December 11, 1882
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: January 5, 1970
From being home-schooled for being too sickly to attend school, Max Born went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to quantum mechanics. Being a Jew, with the rise of the Nazi power, he lost his professorship at the University of Göttingen, and moved to Cambridge.
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 8 Heinrich Hertz

Heinrich Hertz
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: February 22, 1857
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hamburg, Germany
Died: January 1, 1894

Heinrich Hertz was a German physicist best remembered for proving the existence of electromagnetic waves with conclusive evidence. For his contributions, Hertz has been honored around the world by a number of countries, including Japan, Russia, and Germany. In 1930, the International Electrotechnical Commission established hertz (Hz) as the SI unit for frequency.

 9 Wernher Von Braun

Wernher Von Braun
Famous As: Aerospace Engineer
Birthdate: March 23, 1912
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wyrzysk, Poland
Died: June 16, 1977

German-born American aerospace engineer and space architect, Wernher Von Braun, worked in Nazi Germany's rocket development program as a young man. After World War II, he moved to the United States where he became a pioneer of rocket and space technology in the nation. In his later career, he became director of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center.

 10 Georg Ohm

Georg Ohm
Famous As: Physicist & Mathematician
Birthdate: March 16, 1789
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Erlangen, Brandenburg-Bayreuth
Died: July 6, 1854

Georg Ohm was a German mathematician and physicist. He is credited with discovering the proportionality between the voltage applied through a conductor and the subsequent electric current, which came to be known as Ohm's law. His work earned him the prestigious Copley Medal in 1841. A prolific writer, Georg Ohm published several papers and pamphlets throughout his career.

 11 Klaus Fuchs

Klaus Fuchs
Famous As: Theoretical Physicist and Atomic Spy
Birthdate: December 29, 1911
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Rüsselsheim, German Empire
Died: January 28, 1988

German theoretical physicist Klaus Fuchs worked on many significant theoretical calculations relating to the first nuclear weapons. He was also an atomic spy who provided information about nuclear weapons production to the Soviet Union during World War II. He was convicted and jailed for nine years, following which he resumed his career as a physicist.

 12 Hermann von Helmholtz

Hermann von Helmholtz
Famous As: Physicist and Physician
Birthdate: August 31, 1821
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Potsdam
Died: September 8, 1894

A descendant of Pennsylvania founder William Penn through his mother, Hermann von Helmholtz studied medicine, pushed by his father, in spite of being interested in the natural sciences. Best known for his law of conservation of energy, he coalesced the fields of medicine, physiology, math, and physics in his studies.

 13 Gustav Kirchhoff

Gustav Kirchhoff
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: March 12, 1824
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Königsberg, Kingdom of Prussia
Died: October 17, 1887

Gustav Kirchhoff was a German physicist who is credited with coining the term black-body radiation. He is best remembered for his contribution to the basic understanding of spectroscopy, electrical circuits, and the emanation of black-body radiation. In 1862, he received the prestigious Rumford Medal. The Bunsen-Kirchhoff Award is named after Gustav Kirchhoff and German chemist Robert Bunsen.

 14 John B. Goodenough

John B. Goodenough
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: July 25, 1922
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Jena, Germany

John B. Goodenough is an American solid-state physicist and materials scientist. He is credited with developing the lithium-ion battery. In 2019, he became the oldest person to receive a Nobel Prize when he was honored with the prestigious award for his work on lithium-ion batteries. He is also a recipient of the Copley Medal and the National Medal of Science.

 15 Karl Schwarzschild

Karl Schwarzschild
Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer, Astrophysicist, University teacher, Mathematician
Birthdate: October 9, 1873
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Frankfurt
Died: May 11, 1916

Karl Schwarzschild was a German astronomer and physicist. He is remembered for his contributions to the general theory of relativity; Schwarzschild came up with the first exact solution to the Albert Einstein field equations. He also contributed immensely to the theory of black holes.

 16 Arnold Sommerfeld

Arnold Sommerfeld
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: December 5, 1868
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Königsberg
Died: April 26, 1951

German physicist Arnold Sommerfeld initially taught math and theoretical physics and later came to be known for his groundbreaking work on atomic and quantum physics and wave mechanics. He also laid down the magnetic quantum number. Many of the doctoral and post-doctoral students he supervised later won the Nobel Prize.

 17 Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl

Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl
Famous As: Mathematician and Theoretical Physicist
Birthdate: November 9, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Elmshorn, Germany
Died: December 8, 1955

Hermann Klaus Hugo Wey is remembered for his contribution to both physics and math. He was one of the first scientists to think of merging the concepts of electromagnetism and relativity. He moved from the University of Göttingen to Princeton in the wake of the rise of the Nazi reign.

 18 Rainer Weiss

Rainer Weiss
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 29, 1932
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany

Born to a doctor and psychoanalyst father and an actor mother in Berlin, physicist Rainer Weiss fled to the US along with his family, to avoid the Nazi terror. Associated with institutes such as MIT and Princeton, he invented the laser interferometric technique used in LIGO and even won a Nobel Prize later.

 19 Rudolf Clausius

Rudolf Clausius
Famous As: Physicist, University teacher, Mathematician, Theoretical physicist
Birthdate: January 2, 1822
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Koszalin
Died: August 24, 1888

Rudolf Clausius was a German mathematician and physicist. He is credited with formulating the second law of thermodynamics; he is widely regarded as one of the principal founders of the science of thermodynamics. He taught physics at the Artillery and Engineering School in Berlin.

 20 Johannes Stark

Johannes Stark
Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner in Physics
Birthdate: April 15, 1874
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Freihung
Died: June 21, 1957

Johannes Stark was a German physicist who discovered the phenomenon that came to be known as the Stark effect. For this work, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1919. A supporter of Adolf Hitler, he was a main figure in the anti-Semitic Deutsche Physik movement. He was found guilty by a denazification court in 1947.

 21 Philipp Lenard

Philipp Lenard
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: June 7, 1862
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pressburg, Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian Empire
Died: May 20, 1947
Philipp Lenard was a German physicist whose work on cathode rays earned him the 1905 Nobel Prize for Physics. He is credited with making certain discoveries that led to the understanding of the Photoelectric effect. An ardent supporter of the Nazi ideology, Philipp Lenard was regarded as a role model for the Aryan Physics movement in Nazi Germany. 

 22 Ernst Chladni

Ernst Chladni
Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer
Birthdate: November 30, 1756
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lutherstadt Wittenberg
Died: April 3, 1827

Ernst Chladni was a German musician and physicist. He is often referred to as the father of acoustics for his research on vibrating plates; he came up with a method to observe and study the various modes of vibration. Ernst Chladni is also considered the father of meteoritics for his significant contribution to the study of meteorites.

 23 Eugen Goldstein

Eugen Goldstein
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 5, 1850
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gliwice, Poland
Died: December 25, 1930

 24 Hermann Oberth

Hermann Oberth
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: June 25, 1894
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sibiu, Romania
Died: December 28, 1989

Austro-Hungarian-born German physicist and engineer Hermann Oberth is regarded as one of the founding fathers of astronautics and rocketry along with Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Esnault-Pelterie, and Robert Goddard. His classic book The Rocket into Planetary Space gained him widespread attention. Oberth garnered a patent for his rocket design and launched his first rocket near Berlin, Germany, on May 7, 1931.

 25 Wilhelm Wien

Wilhelm Wien
Famous As: Nobel Laureate in Physics
Birthdate: January 13, 1864
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gaffken near Fischhausen, Province of Prussia
Died: August 30, 1928

Wilhelm Wien was a German physicist famous for deducing what became known as Wien's displacement law. He is also credited with formulating an expression for the black-body radiation He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1911 for his work on heat radiation.

 26 Hans Geiger

Hans Geiger
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 30, 1882
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Neustadt, Germany
Died: September 24, 1945

 27 Gustav Fechner

Gustav Fechner
Famous As: Physicist, Psychologist, Statistician, University teacher, Philosopher
Birthdate: April 19, 1801
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bad Muskau
Died: November 18, 1887

Gustav Fechner was a German physicist, philosopher, and experimental psychologist. A pioneer in the field of experimental psychology, Fechner is credited with founding psychophysics. Gustav Fechner inspired several philosophers and scientists like Jan Koenderink, David Heeger, and Farley Norman. In 1970, a crater on the Moon was named after him by the International Astronomical Union.

 28 Gustav Ludwig Hertz

Gustav Ludwig Hertz
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: July 22, 1887
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hamburg, Germany
Died: October 30, 1975

Gustav Ludwig Hertz was a German experimental physicist best known for his work on inelastic electron collisions in gasses, in collaboration with James Franck. They received the 1925 Nobel Prize in Physics. Hertz worked at the University of Berlin and served in the military during World War I. He was a Member of the German Academy of Sciences.

 29 Otto Stern

Otto Stern
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: February 17, 1888
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Żory
Died: August 17, 1969

Otto Stern was a German-American physicist whose discovery of the magnetic moment of the proton and his contribution to the formation of the molecular ray method earned him the 1943 Nobel Prize in Physics. Otto Stern received 82 nominations for a Nobel Prize between 1925 and 1945, making him the second-most nominated person in the history of the Nobel Prize.

 30 Max von Laue

Max von Laue
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: October 9, 1879
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pfaffendorf, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died: April 24, 1960

Nobel Prize-winning German physicist Max von Laue is best remembered for his discovery that crystals cause diffraction of X-rays. He had initially assisted Max Planck and had later also contributed to quantum theory and the theory of relativity. He helped his fellow German scientists escape the Nazi regime.

 31 Otto von Guericke

Otto von Guericke
Famous As: Scientist and politician who established the physics of vacuums and discovered an experimental method for clearly demonstrating electrostatic repulsion.
Birthdate: November 30, 1602
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Magdeburg, Germany
Died: May 21, 1686

Otto von Guericke was a German inventor, scientist, and politician. He made several significant contributions to the development of the Scientific Revolution. He is also credited with inventing the first air pump which he used effectively to study the phenomenon of vacuum. His studies and observation helped reveal the fact that light unlike sound can travel through a vacuum.

 32 Karl Ferdinand Braun

Karl Ferdinand Braun
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: June 6, 1850
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Fulda, Germany
Died: April 20, 1918

Karl Ferdinand Braun was a German electrical engineer, inventor, and physicist. He made significant contributions to the development of radio and TV technology. In 1909, he jointly received the Nobel Prize in Physics with Guglielmo Marconi for their contribution to the development of wireless telegraphy. His work led to the later development of radar, smart antennas, and MIMO. 

 33 Joseph von Fraunhofer

Joseph von Fraunhofer
Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer, Chemist
Birthdate: March 6, 1787
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Straubing
Died: June 7, 1826

Joseph von Fraunhofer was a Bavarian optical lens manufacturer and physicist. He is credited with developing diffraction grating and inventing the spectroscope. He is also credited with discovering the Fraunhofer lines, the dark absorption lines produced in the spectrum of the sun. The Fraunhofer Society, Europe's biggest Society for the Advancement of Applied Research, is named in his honor.

 34 Walther Nernst

Walther Nernst
Famous As: Physicist and Chemist
Birthdate: June 25, 1864
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wąbrzeźno
Died: November 18, 1941

Walther Nernst was a German chemist best remembered for his work in physical chemistry, thermodynamics, solid state physics, and electrochemistry. He is credited with formulating the Nernst heat theorem, which was in turn used in the formulation of the third law of thermodynamics. Walther Nernst received the prestigious Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the year 1920.

 35 Conrad Schlumberger

Conrad Schlumberger
Famous As: Geophysicist
Birthdate: October 2, 1878
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Guebwiller, France
Died: May 9, 1936

Along with his brother, Marcel Schlumberger, Conrad Schlumberger formed one of the most well-known geophysicist duos of Germany. A pioneer in petroleum production, he co-established Schlumberger Ltd., one of the world’s largest oil-field service companies, with Marcel. Their technique of oil exploration offered a cheap alternative than the existing coring methods.

 36 James Franck

James Franck
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: August 26, 1882
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hamburg, German Empire
Died: May 21, 1964

James Franck was a German physicist. Along with fellow physicist Gustav Hertz, he jointly received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1925. He had a prominent academic career and served as the director of the Second Institute for Experimental Physics at the University of Göttingen. He later moved to USA and participated in the Manhattan Project during World War II.

 37 Hans von Ohain

Hans von Ohain
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: December 14, 1911
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dessau, Duchy of Anhalt, Germany
Died: March 13, 1998

 38 Moritz Schlick

Moritz Schlick
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 14, 1882
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: June 22, 1936

 39 Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker

Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: June 28, 1912
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kiel, Germany
Died: April 28, 2007

 40 Ludwig Prandtl

Ludwig Prandtl
Famous As: Physicist, Mechanical engineer, University teacher
Birthdate: February 4, 1875
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Freising
Died: August 15, 1953

 41 Ernst Ruska

Ernst Ruska
Famous As: Inventor of Electron Microscope
Birthdate: December 25, 1906
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Heidelberg
Died: May 27, 1988

Ernst Ruska was a German physicist whose work in electron optics earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. His work led to the discovery of electron microscope, which plays a key role in the field of medical science. From 1957 to 1974, Ernst Ruska also worked at the Technical University of Berlin where he taught several students.

 42 Friedrich Bessel

Friedrich Bessel
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: July 22, 1784
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Minden, Germany
Died: March 17, 1846

Friedrich Bessel was a German mathematician, astronomer, geodesist, and physicist. He was the first astronomer to use the method of parallax in order to determine the distance of a star from the sun. Bessel was a much-respected figure during his time. He was honored with the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

 43 Johann Philipp Reis

Johann Philipp Reis
Famous As: Physicist, Inventor
Birthdate: January 7, 1834
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gelnhausen
Died: January 14, 1874

 44 Pascual Jordan

Pascual Jordan
Famous As: Former theoretical and mathematical physicist who made significant contributions to quantum mechanics and quantum field theory
Birthdate: October 18, 1902
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hanover, Germany
Died: July 31, 1980

 45 Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
Famous As: Physicist, satirist, and Anglophile
Birthdate: July 1, 1742
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Ober-Ramstadt, Germany
Died: February 24, 1799

 46 Wilhelm Weber

Wilhelm Weber
Famous As: Physicst
Birthdate: October 24, 1804
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wittenberg, Saxony, Holy Roman Empire
Died: June 23, 1891

German physicist Wilhelm Weber is remembered for inventing the first electromagnetic telegraph, along with Carl Friedrich Gauss. The Copley Medal-winning scientist had also taught at the universities of Göttingen and Leipzig. The SI unit of magnetic flux, formerly known as the coulomb, was later named the weber in his honor.

 47 Alfred Einstein

Alfred Einstein
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: March 14, 1879
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Munich, Germany
Died: April 18, 1955

 48 Maria Goeppert-Mayer

Maria Goeppert-Mayer
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: June 28, 1906
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Katowice, Poland
Died: February 20, 1972

 49 Stefan Hell

Stefan Hell
Famous As: Winner of 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Map him to 'Chemists'. Remove mapping from 'Physicists'
Birthdate: December 23, 1962
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Arad, Romania

 50 Wolfgang Ketterle

Wolfgang Ketterle
Famous As: Physicist, University teacher
Birthdate: October 21, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Heidelberg