Birthday: October 9, 1879
Died At Age: 80
Sun Sign: Libra
Born in: Pfaffendorf, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Famous as: Physicist
Spouse/Ex-: Magdalene Degen
father: Julius von Laue
mother: Minna Zerrener
Died on: April 24, 1960
place of death: West Berlin
Cause of Death: Accident
education: University of Göttingen, Humboldt University of Berlin, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, University of Strasbourg
Max von Laue or Max Theodor Felix von Laue was a German physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1914 for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals. The structure of crystals became an important subject of future studies due to this discovery. The studies of crystals led to the study of solid-state physics which contributed immensely to the development of modern day electronics. He suggested that an X-ray passing through a crystal would get diffracted into a number of rays and form a pattern on a photographic plate. The pattern would show the atomic structure of the crystal. He always supported Einstein’s ‘theory of relativity’ and carried out many experiments on quantum theory, disintegration of atoms and on the Compton Effect of light changing its wavelength under various conditions. He also contributed to finding solutions to problems related to superconductivity. Because of his capability of making sound judgments, he was always called upon to provide advice in different areas of German scientific experiments. In spite of the danger of being ostracized he was the only one who supported the theory of relativity when Hitler came to power and protested when Einstein was forced to resign from the Berlin Academy.
Childhood & Early Life
Max von Laue was born on October 9, 1879 at Pfaffendorf, near Koblenz in Germany. His father, Julius von Laue, was an official in the German military administration. His mother was Minna Zerrener.
He did his schooling in the cities of Posen, Strasbourg and Berlin. During his studies at the Protestant school in Strasbourg, he was first exposed to science by Professor Goering.
He left school in 1898 to carry out military training for one year. After completing his military training, he joined the ‘University of Strasbourg’ where he studied physics, chemistry and mathematics.
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In 1902 Max von Laue joined the ‘University of Berlin’ to work under Professor Max Planck after spending one semester at the ‘University of Munich’. Lectures given here by O. Lummer on heat radiation and interference spectroscopy influenced him to carry out his own experiments on interference.
Max von Laue moved to the ‘University of Gottingen’ after obtaining his doctorate from the ‘University of Berlin’ in 1903. Here he worked under Professor W. Abraham and Professor W. Voight for two years.
He got the opportunity of becoming the assistant of Professor Max Planck at ‘Institute of Theoretical Physics’ in Berlin in1906 where he worked on thermodynamics and optics.
He became the ‘Privatdozent’ at the ‘University of Munich in 1909 where he taught thermodynamics, optics and the relativity theory.
He joined the ‘University of Zurich’ as a professor of physics in 1912. During this time, two of his students under his guidance proved his theory of diffraction of X-rays passing through crystals.
In 1914 he joined the ‘Frankfurt on Main’ as a ‘Professor of Physics’ and remained there till 1919.
From 1916 onwards he carried out experiments on vacuum tubes that were used in wireless communications and telephony.
The ‘Institute for Physics’ was established at Berlin-Dahlem in 1914 under the directorship of Einstein. Laue became its Deputy Director in 1917.
He was appointed the director of the ‘Institute for Theoretical Physics’ of the ‘University of Berlin’ in 1919 and held the post till 1943.
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During this time from 1934 onwards he worked for ‘Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt’ located in Berlin-Charlottenburg as their consultant.
He stayed in Wurttemberg from 1944 to 1945 and wrote his book titled ‘History of Physics’.
During his last days in Wurttemberg he saw the French troops arrive and was taken away to England along with nine more German scientists by Anglo-American troops.
He was confined in England up to 1946 where he wrote a paper on the low absorption of X-rays by crystals during diffraction which he contributed to the ‘International Union of Crystallographers’ at the Harvard University, U.S, in 1948.
He went back to the ‘Max Planck Institute’ in Gottingen in 1946 as acting director and became the ‘Titular Professor’ at the university.
In 1948 he became the honorary president of the ‘International Union of Crystallographers.
He became director of the ‘Max-Planck Institute’ in April 1951 which was named ‘Fritz Haber Institute for Physical Chemistry’ later in1953. He retired from active service in 1958.
Max von Laue wrote his book titled ‘History of Physics’ during 1944-1945 which had four editions and was translated into seven other languages.
He also wrote eight papers on the application of the theory of relativity between 1907 and 1911.
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He published his book on restricted theory in 1911 and a book on general theory in 1921.
Awards & Achievements
Max von Laue was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1914.
Apart from the Nobel Prize he received many awards such as the Max-Planck Medal, the Ladenburg Medal, the Bimla-Churn-Law Gold Medal and others.
He was awarded honorary doctorates by various universities around the world.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Magdalene Degen in 1910 and they had two children.
Max von Laue died of fatal injuries from a car accident on April 24, 1960.
He loved mountaineering, skiing, sailing, motoring and classical music.
He suffered occasionally from depression in later life but recovered very quickly from it.
He loved to drive cars and motor bikes at high speeds but never met with any motoring accident before he was killed in the one.