Max Volmer was a German scientist who specialised in the field of physical chemistry and is credited for laying the foundations for phenomenological kinetic electrochemistry with his work on the Butler-Volmer equation. He studied at the Phillips University of Marburg and subsequently went on to study at the University of Leipzig, from where he was awarded his doctorate. He taught at the University of Leipzig and within two years of taking up the teaching position he became a Privatdozent. He was involved in military-related research at the Physical Chemistry Institute at the Friedrich-Wilhelms University and also worked in the research wing of an well-known German industrial firm named Auergesellschaft. Subsequently, he built the mercury steam ejector in collaboration with Otto Stern and co-authored a paper with him which resulted in the attribution of the Stern–Volmer equation and constant. He taught at some of the best known educational institutions in Germany, including the University of Hamburg and the Technische Hochshule Berlin. From 1945 to 1955, he spent his time as a researcher in Russia and helped the country with plenty of research programmes and subsequently he was honoured by the Russians with an award. He taught at the Humboldt University of Berlin after coming back to East Germany.
Childhood & Early Life
Max Volmer was born on May 3 1885 in Hilden located in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany.
In 1905, he enrolled at the Phillips University of Marburg and graduated three years later with a bachelors’ degree. Subsequently, he studied at the University of Leipzig and in 1910, he achieved his doctorate from the university. His doctoral thesis was based on his work on photochemical reactions in high vacuums.
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After attaining his doctorate, from the University of Leipzig, he was appointed in the capacity of an assistant lecturer at the same university in 1912. The following year, he completed his Habilitation, and became a Privatdozent at the University.
He joined the Physical Chemistry Institute at the Friedrich-Wilhelms University in 1916 and worked on military-related research. In 1918, he joined the research wing of the industrial firm named Aurgesellschaft in their headquarters in Berlin and worked there for two years.
He collaborated with Otto Stern to invent a device known as the mercury steam ejector in 1919. Consequently, he and Stern co-authored a paper which resulted in the attribution of the Stern–Volmer equation and constant. The following year, the University of Hamburg appointed him as the extraordinarius professor of electrochemistry and physical chemistry.
In 1922, Max Volner was appointed ordinarius professor and director of the Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry Institute of the Technische Hochschule Berlin. During the period he spent at the Technische Hochshule Berlin, he discovered the phenomenon of Volmer diffusion which involved the migration of absorbed molecules.
He expanded on the work done by John Alfred Valentine Butler to produce the Butler-Volmer equation in 1930 and this particular work spawned a new branch of science known as phenomenological kinetic electrochemistry.
Following a pact among some of the leading scientists in Germany of the day, Volmer moved to Russia along with three others in order to protect the scientific institutions and themselves from persecution at the hands of the Nazis. He lived in Russia for a decade, starting in 1945 and during this period, one of his most important projects was his work on the production of heavy water. He also worked on a project involving plutonium extraction.
After coming back to East Germany, he was made an ordinaries professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin on 1 May 1955. On 10 November of the same year, he was made one of the members of the Council of Ministers of the GDR or the German Democratic Republic.
On 8 December 1955, the German Academy of Science appointed him as its president and he continued in that post till 1959.
In 1957, he became an initial member of the Forschungsrat of the GDR.
His most important work in his long scientific career is without doubt his work on the Butler-Volmer equation, which he produced in 1930 after going through the work that had been done by Butler. It laid the foundations for phenomenological kinetic electrochemistry.
Awards & Achievements
Max Volmer was awarded the Outstanding Scientist of the People prize by the Soviet Union following his decade long work in the country from 1945 to 1955.
Personal Life & Legacy
Max Volmer married Lotte Pusch, a physical chemist by profession.
He died on June 3, 1965, in Postdam, at the age of 80.
At the Technical University of Berlin, the Max Volmer Laboratory for Biophysical Chemistry was named in his honor.