Max Planck

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Planck, Max

(mäks plängk), 1858–1947, German physicist. Seeking to explain the experimental spectrumspectrum,
arrangement or display of light or other form of radiation separated according to wavelength, frequency, energy, or some other property. Beams of charged particles can be separated into a spectrum according to mass in a mass spectrometer (see mass spectrograph).
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 (distribution of electromagnetic energy according to wavelength) of blackbodyblackbody,
in physics, an ideal black substance that absorbs all and reflects none of the radiant energy falling on it. Lampblack, or powdered carbon, which reflects less than 2% of the radiation falling on it, crudely approximates an ideal blackbody; a material consisting of a
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 radiation, he introduced the hypothesis (1900) that oscillating atoms absorb and emit energy only in discrete bundles (called quanta) instead of continuously, as assumed in classical physics. The success of his work and subsequent developments by Albert EinsteinEinstein, Albert
, 1879–1955, American theoretical physicist, known for the formulation of the relativity theory, b. Ulm, Germany. He is recognized as one of the greatest physicists of all time.
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, Niels BohrBohr, Niels Henrik David
, 1885–1962, Danish physicist, one of the foremost scientists of modern physics. He studied at the Univ. of Copenhagen (Ph.D. 1911) and carried on research on the structure of the atom at Cambridge under Sir James J.
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, Werner HeisenbergHeisenberg, Werner
, 1901–76, German physicist. One of the founders of the quantum theory, he is best known for his uncertainty principle, or indeterminacy principle, which states that it is impossible to determine with arbitrarily high accuracy both the position and
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, Erwin SchrödingerSchrödinger, Erwin
, 1887–1961, Austrian theoretical physicist. He was educated at Vienna, taught at Breslau and Zürich, and was professor at the Univ. of Berlin (1927–33), fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford (1933–36), and professor at the Univ.
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, and others established the revolutionary quantum theoryquantum theory,
modern physical theory concerned with the emission and absorption of energy by matter and with the motion of material particles; the quantum theory and the theory of relativity together form the theoretical basis of modern physics.
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 of modern physics, of which Planck is justly regarded as the father. In 1918, Planck received the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on blackbody radiation. He was professor at the Univ. of Berlin (1889–1928) and president (1930–35) of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Advancement of Science, Berlin, which after World War II was reconstituted as part of the Max Planck Institutes. He was an editor of the Annalen der Physik and member of the Royal Society (London) and the American Physical Society. His name is honored in Planck's constantPlanck's constant
, fundamental constant of the quantum theory. It is represented by the letter h and has a value of 6.63 × 10−34 J-sec. The combination h/2π, denoted by h (called "h-bar"), occurs frequently.
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. English translations of his works include A Survey of Physics (1925, new ed. 1960), Introduction to Theoretical Physics (5 vol., 1932–33), Treatise on Thermodynamics (3d rev. ed. 1945), and Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (1949).


See biography by B. R. Brown (2015).