Otto Stern

Otto Stern ( born February 17, 1888 in Sohrau, Upper Silesia, † August 17 1969 in Berkeley ) was a German, who emigrated to the USA in 1933 physicist and Nobel Prize winner ( 1943).


Stern visited the mixed - denominational school John Wroclaw. He came from a wealthy Jewish family, belonged to the grain merchant and mill owner. That gave Stern later financial independence in the scientific enterprise. After finishing high school in Wroclaw 1906 he began the study of mathematics and science, including Arnold Sommerfeld in Munich, Freiburg and the University of Breslau. Experimental physics he heard at Otto Lummer and Ernst Pringsheim. In particular, however, he learned statistical mechanics and thermodynamics in the self-study of the writings of Ludwig Boltzmann, Rudolf Clausius and Walter Nernst. He received his doctorate in 1912 at the University of Breslau in physical chemistry at Otto Sackur ( with a dissertation on the osmotic pressure of carbon dioxide in concentrated solutions ). In the same year he went to Albert Einstein at the Charles University in Prague and eventually succeeded him in 1913 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, where in 1913 he completed his habilitation in physical chemistry. With Einstein - who was at the beginning of his career as a physicist as a specialist in thermodynamics - in particular he worked on problems of statistical mechanics. With it he formed a lifelong friendship. He arrived in Zurich and in contact with Paul Ehrenfest and Max von Laue. The following year he went to the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, where he umhabilitierte 1915 for theoretical physics. He stayed on as a lecturer in theoretical physics in Frankfurt until 1921, interrupted by military service in World War I, in which he volunteered immediately after the outbreak of war and served on the Russian front, first as a private and then as a sergeant in technical use. Max Born ensured that he was assigned to a research department of the University of Berlin. In 1919 he received the title of professor and was assistant to Max Born in Frankfurt. During this time he turned to the theoretical physics of experimental physics. Received 1921 star has a reputation for a professorship in theoretical physics at the University of Rostock, where he remained until 1922. 1923 was followed by a call for the newly founded Institute for Physical Chemistry at the University of Hamburg as Professor and Director. In Hamburg, close to Hamburg time about lasting friendship with his colleagues, the astronomer Walter Baade, the mathematician Erich Hecke and (then still budding ) physicist Wolfgang Pauli began. 1930/31 he was dean of the University of Hamburg from 1931 to 1932 and member of the Senate of the University.

Because of his Jewish background, he emigrated to the USA in 1933 and in 1939 the U.S. citizenship. He was from 1933 until his retirement in 1945 research professor of physics at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. In California, he sat down in the following year to rest.

The Stern-Volmer equation goes back to working with Max Volmer at Berlin physicochemical institute.

In the experiment of Stern he measured directly for the first time the velocity of atoms. In February 1922, he led, together with Walther Gerlach in the Physics Club in Frankfurt am Main, the Stern-Gerlach experiment for the detection of directional quantization by.

Stern was awarded in 1943 as " recognition of his contribution to the development of molecular-beam method and for his discovery of the magnetic moment of the proton " the Nobel Prize for physics.

The University Frankfurt honored Otto Stern, she named the 2011 finished central lecture and library building at the new campus Riedenberg after him as Otto - Star center. The Stern-Gerlach Medal of DPG is named after him and Gerlach.

In 1960 he was made an honorary Doctor of ETH Zurich. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1945 ), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and the Göttingen Academy of Sciences ( been but excluded from this during the Nazi time - he did not occur again).


  • A direct measurement of the thermal molecular velocity, Journal of Physics 2 (1920), 49-56
  • One way of experimental space quantization in a magnetic field, Journal of Physics 7 (1921) 249-253
  • With W. Gerlach: The experimental proof of the magnetic moment of the silver atom, Journal of Physics 8 (1921) 110-111
  • With W. Gerlach: Experimental evidence of space quantization in a magnetic field, Journal of Physics 9 (1922) 349-352
  • With W. Gerlach: The magnetic moment of the silver atom, Journal of Physics 9 (1922) 353-355