Nobel Prize Award for Physics 1912 to 1918

About the Nobel Prize Award for Physics 1912 to 1918 including the scientists Planck and Onnes, their works, and history.


1912 Nils G. Dalen (1869-1937), Swedish

Work: Invention of automatic gas regulators for use in lighthouses, buoys, and railway lights

1913 Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926), Dutch

Work: Research into the properties of matter at low temperatures, making possible the production of liquid helium

Nobel Laureate: Born in Groningen, Holland, Kamerlingh Onnes earned his physics degrees in his hometown and in 1882 joined the faculty of the University of Leiden, where he labored until his death. While others were trying in vain to liquefy gases, he built a laboratory specially designed to conduct experiments in low temperatures. Assisted by a carefully chosen and personally trained staff, the cryogenics pioneer condensed a number of gases, among them helium in 1908. In so doing, he reached temperatures within a single degree of absolute zero. He also discovered that metals lose nearly all resistance to electricity when subjected to temperatures approaching absolute zero. In such a state, he found, certain metals become "superconductors," capable of holding a charge for hours, even days, with little loss of current. Although he spent his best years working "in the cold," Kamerlingh Onnes's disposition was far from frigid. He helped put the world back together after W.W. I. by funneling food to starving children regardless of nationality. And he argued forcefully for a world scientific community free of malignant nationalism and politics.

1914 Max von Laue (1879-1960), German

Work: Use of crystals to diffract X rays

1915 William H. Bragg (1862-1942), British

W. Lawrence Bragg (1890-1971), British

Work: Use of X rays to determine the structure of crystals

1916 No award

1917 Charles G. Barkla (1877-1944), British

Work: Discovery of the characteristic X-ray radiation peculiar to any given element

1918 Max K. E. L. Planck (1858-1947), German

Work: Formulation of the quantum theory

Nobel Laureate: Born in Kiel and raised in Munich, Germany, Planck taught at a number of German universities, retiring from the University of Berlin in 1928. His quantum theory--which held that energy is not emitted in continuous waves but rather in bursts of units known as quanta (Planck called them "pennies of the atomic world")--upended classic Newtonian physics. A man of few pretensions, he always traveled third class and often picked up a carryout supper from the neighborhood delicatessen on his way home from the university. A confirmed anti-Nazi, he risked reprisal when he led the funeral services for a German chemist who had died in exile. Just two years before his death, he saw his son executed for his part in an abortive plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. Planck played the piano well. He remained in top physical condition and in his later years even continued to mountain-climb. His good friend Albert Einstein once wrote of him: "[He is] one of the few worshipers in the Temple of Science who would still remain should an angel of God descend and drive out of the temple all those lesser scientists, who under different circumstances might become politicians or captains of industry."

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