Heinrich Hertz

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (* February 22, 1857 in Hamburg, † January 1, 1894 in Bonn ) was a German physicist. Particularly as a result of his work on the experimental evidence of electromagnetic waves Hertz as one of the most important physicists of the 19th century.



Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was born into a prestigious family Hanseatic. His father, Gustav Ferdinand Hertz (original name: David Gustav Hertz, 1827-1914 ) was born into a Jewish family but converted to Christianity. He was a postdoctoral lawyer, judge since 1877 and from 1887 to 1904 Senator and president of the Hamburg administration of justice. The mother Anna Elisabeth Pfefferkorn was the daughter of a garrison physician.

Heinrich Hertz had four siblings, brothers Gustav Theodor (* 1858), Rudolf ( * 1861 ) and Otto (* 1867 ) and his sister Melanie (* 1873). The brother Gustav Theodor became the father of Nobel laureate Gustav Ludwig Hertz.


His high school did Hertz at Johanneum in Hamburg and prepared to put in an engineering office in Frankfurt am Main on an engineering degree before. The study in Dresden, where he was a member of the fraternity Cheruscia in April, 1876, he broke off after the first semester because only could inspire the mathematics lectures him there. After a year of military service, he therefore began to study at the Technical University of Munich mathematics and physics.

Shortly thereafter, he moved in 1878 to the Friedrich- Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin. He received his doctorate at the age of 23 years with a thesis on the rotation of metal balls in a magnetic field, and remained for two years as a research and lecture assistant to Hermann von Helmholtz in Berlin.


1883 Hertz was a lecturer in theoretical physics at the Christian -Albrechts -University of Kiel. From 1885 to 1889 he was professor of physics at the Technical University of Karlsruhe. In 1886 he married Elisabeth Doll. From this marriage two daughters were born, Johanna and Matilda.

From 1889 he was professor of physics at the Rheinische Friedrich- Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, after he had rejected appeals to Berlin, casting and America.

Hertz died in 1894 after two years of suffering from the Wegener 's granulomatosis with only 36 years. He is buried in the cemetery Ohlsdorf in Hamburg.

Nazi period

Heinrich Hertz was a Lutheran all his life and had never been defined as a Jew, as the whole family of his father converted to Lutheranism. Also the frequent among German Jews name Hertz non-disabled young physicists. In the Nazi period, his portrait was removed because of his Jewish ancestry from the City Hall, and renamed after him named institutions and roads mostly. Also, there was an attempt to rename named after him Hertz, which was introduced in 1933 internationally while retaining the abbreviation " Hz " to " Helmholtz ".

His children and the children of his siblings were " Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service" from the public service and therefore removed after from the scientific community. His widow left in 1930 along with his daughters, Germany and settled in England.


Heinrich Hertz was a theoretical solution of the electromagnetic field theory of an oscillating point-like electric dipole, see Hertzian oscillator. His chief merit lay in the experimental confirmation of James Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic theory of light in 1886.

Heinrich Hertz worked in Karlsruhe and unexplored visible electromagnetic waves (radio waves). He showed that they are in the same way and with the same velocity spread like light waves (see: refraction, polarization and reflection). On November 11, 1886 experiment, he succeeded in transmitting electromagnetic waves from a transmitter to a receiver. The Berlin Academy of Sciences, he taught on 13 December 1888 in its research report " Outshine electrical power " of the electromagnetic waves. On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of this publication are the German Post AG, the Initial Issue Date November 2, 2013 out a special postage stamps to the value of 58 euro cents. Heinrich Hertz's results provided the basis for the development of wireless telegraphy and radio.

Also, in 1839, discovered by Alexandre Edmond Becquerel outer photoelectric effect has been studied by Hertz ( 1886). Its investigation was continued by his assistant William Hall wax 1887 ( Hall wax effect ). This effect has played a special role in the formulation of the hypothesis of light quanta by Albert Einstein in 1905.

Hertz calculated elasticity theory, the stresses in the pressure contact of curved surfaces ( Hertzian pressure ).


The unit of frequency, one cycle per second = 1 hertz (abbreviation Hz 1 ), is named after him and anchored in the international metric system since 1933.

According to Hertz were named among other things:

  • The Heinrich- Hertz-Turm, the television tower
  • The Heinrich Hertz Telescope, Mount Graham, Arizona
  • The planned research satellite Heinrich Hertz
  • Berlin's Heinrich -Hertz-Institut, which belongs since 1 January 2003 on the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
  • The Heinrich -Hertz- College of Europe in Bonn
  • The Heinrich -Hertz- vocational college in Dusseldorf
  • Different schools: the Heinrich -Hertz -Gymnasium in Berlin- Friedrichshain
  • The Heinrich -Hertz -Gymnasium in Erfurt
  • The Heinrich -Hertz -Schule in Hamburg ( former Lichtwark school)
  • The Heinrich -Hertz -Schule in Karlsruhe
  • The Heinrich -Hertz school in Quickborn

Stamp ( 1957) on the 100th birthday

Stamp ( 1957) on the 100th birthday

Stamp ( 1994) on the 100th anniversary of his death

Friedrich Wield: airwave, Memorial to Heinrich Hertz in Hamburg Oak Park

Bust on the south campus of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Plaque at the Heinrich- Hertz-Turm in Hamburg