Otto Stern was born in Sorau, Upper Silesia, Germany, on February 17, 1888. In 1892 he moved with his parents to Breslau, where he attended high school. He began to study physical chemistry in 1906, receiving his Ph.D. degree from the University of Breslau in 1912. In the same year he joined Einstein at the University of Prague and later followed him to the University of Zurich, where he became Privatdocent of Physical Chemistry at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in 1913.
In 1914, he went to the University of Frankfurt am Main as Privatdocent of Theoretical Physics, remaining there until 1921, except for a period of military service. From 1921 to 1922, he was Associate Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Rostock, becoming, in 1923, Professor of Physical Chemistry and Director of the laboratory at the University of Hamburg, where he remained until 1933.
After resigning from his post at the University of Hamburg in 1933, he became professor of physics at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and later professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.
Stern was an outstanding experimental physicist; his contributions included development of the molecular-beam method, discovery of spin quantization (with Walther Gerlach, 1922; see Stern-Gerlach experiment), measurement of atomic magnetic moments, demonstration of the wave nature of atoms and molecules, and discovery of the proton's magnetic moment. He was awarded the 1943 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Stern died on August 17, 1969.