The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science


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He racked up a multitude of awards in his academic career before finally winning the Nobel Prize in Physics at the age of He received more nominations for the Nobel from a wider range of physicists than any other candidate at the time. Planck was a gifted pianist and almost dedicated his career to music instead of physics. He hosted musical salons at his home, inviting other physicists and academics as well as professional musicians.

Albert Einstein attended [ PDF ], sometimes picking up the violin to play in quartets or trios with Planck. Not long after the year-old Planck got to the University of Munich in , physics professor Philipp von Jolly tried to dissuade the young student from going into theoretical physics. Jolly argued that other scientists had basically figured out all there was to know. Luckily, the budding scientist ignored his advice.

17 Little-Known Facts About Max Planck | Mental Floss

In the evenings and during university breaks, though, he relaxed and entertained friends. Planck stayed active throughout his life, hiking and mountain climbing well into old age. In his 80s, he still regularly climbed Alpine peaks reaching more than feet in height.

It was almost impossible not to be tagged by him. And how visibly pleased he was when he had caught someone! It didn't work. In , one in five German scientists had been dismissed from their posts as many as one in four in the field of physics and supporting Jewish scientists became increasingly risky. Still, in , Planck convened a commemorative meeting of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society to honor the late Jewish chemist Fritz Haber despite an explicit government ban on attending the event.

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His prominent support of Jewish scientists like Haber and Einstein and refusal to join the Nazi Party eventually resulted in the government forcing him out of his position at the Prussian Academy of Sciences and blocking him from receiving certain professional awards. He did it a second time.

Erwin Planck was a high-ranking government official before the Nazis came to power, and although he resigned from political life in , he secretly helped craft a constitution for a post-Nazi government. Erwin was executed in Close mobile search navigation Article Navigation. Volume Swenson, Jr.

The Dilemmas of an Upright Man: Max Planck as Spokesman for German Science

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11 Science, Technology, and Medicine

You do not currently have access to this article. Download all figures. Sign in. You could not be signed in. Thank you! In Heilbron's hands, Planck's life seems almost a classic Greek tragedy. Born in , the son of a theologian, and with a lineage of pastors and scholars on both sides of the family, Planck was destined to weigh the moral significance of every act throughout his long lifetime.


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He died in at the age of Throughout, Planck remained a German living in Germany. The early days were a source of pride to him as he saw Germany establish itself as a world power and center of learning, above all in physics and chemistry.

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During the first decades of the century, Planck rose to world fame as he explored the new quantum theories and gave his name to the constant in the formula that relates energy to wavelength. Planck was naive politically, however, and while loyal to Germany during WW I, he greatly regretted having signed a declaration denying that Germany had devastated Belgium at the outset of the war. By that time, Planck had already assumed a position of spokesman for science, administrating major agencies and gaining a Nobel prize in He was instrumental in seeing that Einstein gained the prize the following year.

Heilbron documents the postwar struggles, the economic hard times, and the rise of the Third Reich as they affected German science in general, and Planck in particular. Ultimately, Planck made the decision to try to salvage science and to protect and aid Jewish scientists. He never despaired of trying to preserve a sane scientific enclave while the Nazis were damning Einstein and inveighing against ""Jewish"" relativity. He worried about nuclear fission, but reached, in consolation, the conclusion that there was no way that German science could rally to make a bomb.

The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science
The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science
The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science
The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science
The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science
The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science
The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science
The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science
The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science The dilemmas of an upright man: Max Planck as spokesman for German science

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