Otto Stern

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Otto Stern was also the penname of German women's rights activist Louise Otto-Peters (1819–1895).
Otto Stern
Otto Stern 1950s.jpg
Born (1888-02-17)17 February 1888
Sohrau, Kingdom of Prussia
(today Żory, Poland)
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Berkeley, California, United States
Nationality Germany
Fields Physics
Institutions University of Rostock
University of Hamburg
Carnegie Institute of Technology
University of California, Berkeley
Alma mater University of Breslau
University of Frankfurt
Known for Stern–Gerlach experiment
Spin quantization
Molecular ray method
Stern–Volmer relationship
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (1943)

Otto Stern (17 February 1888 – 17 August 1969) was a German physicist and Nobel laureate in physics. He was the 2nd most nominated person for Nobel Prize with 82 (most time nominated is Arnold Sommerfeld with 84 nomination) nominations between 1925-1945, ultimately winning in 1943.


Stern was born into a Jewish family (father Oskar Stern and mother Eugenia née Rosenthal) in Sohrau (now Żory) in Upper Silesia, the German Empire's Kingdom of Prussia (now in Poland). He studied at Breslau, now Wrocław in Lower Silesia.[citation needed]

Stern completed his studies at the University of Breslau in 1912 with a doctor's degree in physical chemistry. He then followed Albert Einstein to Charles University in Prague and in later to ETH Zurich. Stern received his Habilitation at the University of Frankfurt in 1915 and in 1921, he became a professor at the University of Rostock, which he left in 1923 to work at the newly founded Institut für Physikalische Chemie at the University of Hamburg.

Plaque on the wall of what are now the physics institutes of Hamburg University, commemorating Stern's tenure

After resigning from his post at the University of Hamburg in 1933 because of the Nazis' Machtergreifung (seizure of power), he became professor of physics at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and later professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.

As an experimental physicist Stern contributed to the discovery of spin quantization in the Stern–Gerlach experiment with Walther Gerlach in February 1922 at the Physikalischer Verein in Frankfurt am Main;[1][2] demonstration of the wave nature of atoms and molecules; measurement of atomic magnetic moments; discovery of the proton's magnetic moment; and development of the molecular ray method which is utilized for the technique of molecular beam epitaxy.

He was awarded the 1943 Nobel Prize in Physics, the first to be awarded since 1939. He was the sole recipient in Physics that year, and the award citation omitted mention of the Stern–Gerlach experiment, as Gerlach had remained active in Nazi-led Germany.

See also


  1. Walther Gerlach & Otto Stern, "Das magnetische Moment des Silberatoms", Zeitschrift für Physik, V9, N1, pp. 353–355 (1922).
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  • Horst Schmidt-Böcking and Karin Reich: Otto Stern. Physiker Querdenker, Nobelpreisträger. Societäts-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2011, ISBN 978-3-942921-23-7.
  • J.P. Toennies, H. Schmidt-Böcking, B. Friedrich3, and J.C.A. Lower (2011). Otto Stern (1888–1969): The founding father of experimental atomic physics. Annalen der Physik, 523, 1045–1070. arXiv:1109.4864

External links