(1887 - 1975)
Gustav Ludwig Hertz was born on July 22, 1887, in Hamburg, Germany. In 1906, he entered
the University of Göttingen; after a few years he transferred to
the Universities of Munich and Berlin, where he graduated in 1911.
In 1913, Hertz was appointed Research Assistant at
the Physics Intstitute at the Berlin University. It was there that Hertz
first met James
Franck. From 1912-1914, Hertz worked extensively on
the Franck-Hertz experiment, which sought to experimentally probe the
energy levels of the atom. This research was an important confirmation
of the Bohr model of the atom, with electrons orbiting the nucleus with
specific, discrete energies. They proved that atoms can absorb internal
energy only in definite amounts.
In 1914, Hertz was drafted into the German Army. After
being severly injured in combat, Hertz was released in 1915. Following
the war, from 1920 to 1925, he worked in the physics laboratory at the
Philips Incandescent Lamp Factory at Eindhoven.
In 1925, he was made Resident Professor and Director
of the Physics Institute of the University of Halle. In 1928, Hertz
moved to the Charlottenburg Technological University in Berlin as Director
of the Physics Institute. There he developed a method of separating
the isotopes (chemical elements with the same number of protons, but
different atomic masses) of neons. As a result of rising anti-Semitism,
Hertz resigned from this position in 1935.
After the Nazis came to power in Germany, he moved to the Soviet
Union. From 1945 to 1954, Hertz headed a research laboratory. In
1954, he returned to East Germany where he was appointed Professor and
Director of the Physics Institute in Leipzig. In 1961, he was emeritus.
He won the Nobel
Prize for Physics in 1925, along with Franck, for their work in
quantum physics. Quantum mechanics is a fundamental physical theory
that extends, corrects and unifies Newtonian mechanics and Maxwellian
electromagnetism at the atomic and subatomic levels. Franck and Hertz
studied the movements of free electrons in various gases and the impacts
these electrons have on an atom’s functions.
In addition to receiving the Nobel Prize, Hertz was
elected a member of the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin and a Foreign
Member of the Academy of Sciences U.S.S.R. Hertz was also awarded the
Max Planck Medal of the German Physical Society.
Hertz died in Berlin,
on October 30, 1975.