Frits Zernike Biography
Birthday: July 16, 1888 (Cancer)
Born In: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Fritz Zernike, also known as Fredrik Zernike, was a Dutch mathematician and physicist who received the Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing the phase-contrast microscope. He discovered the phenomenon of phase-contrast in 1930 during his investigations about some optical flaws that occurred in diffraction gratings of astronomical telescopes due to imperfections in the spacing of engraved lines. His design of the phase-contrast microscope was based on this phenomenon in which finely tuned rays of light could be separated as they passed through transparent materials. When using this microscope, the light was focused at an angle to enhance the structure of the cells in a tissue without staining or killing them as was required in earlier microscopes. Though this microscope was far superior to other microscopes of the time, not many gave the invention any importance. It came to the notice of Germans only during the Second World War and they seized the design and made duplicates of the microscope. He also devised the ‘Ornstein-Zernike Equation’ in collaboration with Leonard Salomon Ornstein which became the basis for the theory of integral equations related to the equilibrium of fluids. He also devoted a number of years in studying the correlation coefficients and order-disorder theory related to the molecules of various liquids.