Birthday: January 31, 1929
Died At Age: 82
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Rudolf Ludwig Mössbauer
Born in: Munich, Weimar Republic
Famous as: Physicist
Spouse/Ex-: Christel Braun, to Elisabeth Pritz
father: Ludwig Mossbauer
mother: Ernest Mossbauer
children: Peter, Regine, Suzi
Died on: September 14, 2011
place of death: Grunwald, Germany
City: Munich, Germany
awards: Nobel Prize in Physics (1961)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1961)
Lomonosov Gold Medal (1984)
Rudolf Mossbauer was a German physicist who discovered the Mossbauer Effect for which he was honoured with a Nobel Prize in 1961. He was the first to provide an experimental proof of recoilless nuclear resonance absorption, the emission without recoil of gamma rays by radioactive nuclei of crystalline solids, and the way these emitted rays are subsequently absorbed by other nuclei. The discovery, which was later termed Mossbauer Effect, was extremely crucial in the field of physics as it was used to verify Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity and helped in measuring magnetic fields of atomic nuclei. It also formed the basis of Mossbauer Spectroscopy which has been widely used in biological sciences, nuclear physics, inorganic and structural chemistry, solid state studies, and several other related fields. Mossbauer’s discovery assisted in the study of energy levels in atomic nuclei and how they were affected by their surroundings and various phenomena. However, Mossbauer did not restrain his investigation and study to recoilless nuclear resonance fluorescence only. Towards the end of his career, he studied electroweak theory, neutrinos, neutrons, and the conversion of hydrogen into helium as well.
Childhood & Early Life
Rudolf Mossbauer was born on January 31, 1929, in Munich to Ludwig and Ernest Mossbauer. He was the only child of the couple. His father was a phototechnician, who printed colour post cards and reproduced photographic materials.
Young Mossbauer completed his early education from Oberschule in Munich-Pasing. He graduated from the same in 1948. Since Germany was reeling from the after effects of World War II, Mossbauer’s plans of attaining higher education seemed difficult to attain.
Following his secondary education, he found work as an optical assistant at the Rodenstock optical firm in Münich. Later, he worked for the U.S. Army of Occupation. Saving money from both the jobs, he subsequently enrolled himself at the Munich Technical University to study physics in 1949.
In 1952, Mossbauer received his preliminary diploma or B.S. degree from the institute, and three years later was awarded his M.S. degree.
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Following his degree from Munich Technical University, Mossbauer took up the post of an assistant lecturer at the Institute of Mathematics. Simultaneously, he worked on his thesis at the Laboratory for Applied Physics at Munich Technical University between 1953 and 1954.
From 1955 until 1957, Mossbauer worked on his thesis for the doctorate degree. He carried out a series of investigations at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg. It was while working on his thesis at the Max Planck Institute that Mossbauer first observed the phenomenon of Recoilless Nuclear Resonance Absorption.
In 1958, he provided the direct experimental evidence of the existence of the Recoilless Nuclear Resonance Absorption. Much unlike normal conditions, atomic nuclei recoil when emitted gamma rays the wavelength of the emission varied with the amount of recoil. However, through his experiment, he found that at low temperature a nucleus could be embedded in a crystal lattice that absorbed its recoil. This discovery made it possible to produce gamma rays at specific wavelengths.
Mossbauer’s discovery of the phenomenon of Recoilless Nuclear Resonance Absorption was epical. It was instrumental in verifying Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity and greatly assisted in measuring the magnetic fields of atomic nuclei.
In 1958, Mossbauer received his doctorate degree from the Munich Technical University under Professor Maier-Leibnitz. Following year, he was appointed as the scientific assistant at the Munich Technical University.
In 1960, Mossbauer accepted an invitation from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Therein, he continued his investigation of gamma absorption as a research fellow and later as a senior research fellow. In 1961, he was made Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology.
During the 1960s, Mossbauer’s fame grew excessively. His discovery which was popularly known as Mossbauer Effect was applied all over. Robert Pound and Glen Rebka used this effect to prove the red shift of gamma radiation in the gravitational field of the Earth. The long-term importance of the Mössbauer effect was felt in Mössbauer spectroscopy which was used in biological sciences, nuclear physics, inorganic and structural chemistry, solid state studies, and several other related fields.
In 1964, he returned to his alma mater Munich Technical University as a full time professor and retained this position until 1997 when he was appointed Professor Emeritus.
In 1972, Mossbauer moved to Grenoble succeeding Heinz Maier-Leibnitz as the Director of the Institut Laue-Langevin. He served in this position for five years before returning to Munich.
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During the later years of his life, Mossbauer shifted his focus to neutrino physics. He gave specialized lectures on numerous courses, including Neutrino Physics, Neutrino Oscillations, The Unification of the Electromagnetic and Weak Interactions and The Interaction of Photons and Neutrons With Matter.
Mossbauer’s most important work came in towards the end of the 1950s. While studying at the Munich Technical University, he discovered the recoilless nuclear resonance fluorescence. Under normal conditions, atomic nuclei recoil when emitted gamma rays, the wavelength of the emission varied with the amount of recoil. However, Mossbauer discovered that at low temperature a nucleus could be embedded in a crystal lattice that absorbed its recoil. This discovery of the Mössbauer effect made it possible to produce gamma rays at specific wavelengths. The Mossbauer Effect was used to verify Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity and later employed for measuring the magnetic fields of atomic nuclei. It also formed the basis of Mossbauer spectroscopy which has been widely used in biological sciences, nuclear physics, inorganic and structural chemistry, solid state studies, and several other related fields.
Awards & Achievements
In 1960, Mossbauer was felicitated with the Science Award of the Research Corporation of America.
Mossbauer received the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics in 1961 for his researches concerning the resonance absorption of gamma radiation and his discovery in this connection of the effect, Mossbauer Effect, which bears his name. He shared the award with Robert Hofstadter, who was awarded for his pioneering studies of electron scattering in atomic nuclei and for his thereby achieved discoveries concerning the structure of the nucleon.
In 1962, he received the Bavarian Order of Merit
In 1974, he was bestowed with the Guthrie Medal of London's Institute of Physics.
In 1984, he received the Lomonosov Gold Medal of the Soviet Academy of Sciences .
Personal Life & Legacy
Mossbauer twice married in his life. The first marriage was to Elisabeth Pritz with whom he had a daughter Suzi. He later married Christel Braun. She bore him two children, a son Peter and a daughter Regine.
He breathed his last on September 14, 2011, in Grunwald, Germany.