Laue, Max von

born Max Laue (1879-1960)
   physicist; founded the field of X-ray structural analysis (crystallography). Born in the village of Pfaffendorf bei Koblenz, he began studying physics in 1898 while fulfilling his military obligation. Specializing in theoretical physics, he developed a parallel interest in optics under the influence of Berlin's Otto Lummer. He took his doctorate in 1903 under Max Planck.*
   Although Laue had intended to teach Gymnasium, Planck convinced him to return to Berlin* in 1905 as his Assistent. In 1906 Laue completed his Habili-tation. While he initially doubted Einstein's* theory of relativity—"the trans-formation of space and time appeared strange to me"—he used optics to confirm its logic in 1907; thereafter he was among Einstein's champions. Appointed Privatdozent in 1909 at Munich's Institute for Theoretical Physics, Laue enjoyed several rewarding years of X-ray research. His structural analysis of copper sulfate through X-radiation earned him the Nobel Prize for physics in 1914. He was appointed ausserordentlicher Professor at Zürich in 1912 and became full professor at Frankfurt's new university in 1914. His father was ennobled the same year.
   To improve army communications, Laue worked in the war on electronic amplifying tubes. Because he wished to return to Berlin, he exchanged teaching positions in 1919 with Max Born* and thus was able to be near Planck. In succeeding years he recast X-ray analysis as a subfield of chemistry and physics. Drawn primarily to theory, he rarely studied individual substances and did not participate in the unfolding of quantum mechanics. He joined the Prussian Acad-emy of Sciences in 1921 and represented theoretical physics from 1922 in the newly formed Notgemeinschaft der deutschen Wissenschaft (Emergency Asso-ciation of German Science), later heading the group's physics committee. In 1932 he received the Max Planck Medal.
   Although Laue remained in Germany after the NSDAP assumed power—"I hate them so much I must be close to them"—he was hardly a supporter of the Third Reich. Comparing Einstein to Galileo and Fritz Haber* to Themistocles, he publicly rebuked the regime's slandering of relativity as a "worldwide Jewish trick" and persistently fought the debasement of science. Despite his involve-ment in efforts to oppose Germany's wartime uranium project, he was interned by the Allies in 1945. Settling at Gottingen with Otto Hahn,* he helped rebuild German science in the late 1940s and was instrumental in founding the Max Planck Society in 1946.
   REFERENCES:Beyerchen, Scientists under Hitler; DSB, vol. 8; Heilbron, Dilemmas of an Upright Man; Hermann, New Physics; NDB, vol. 13.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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  • Laue, Max von — ▪ German physicist in full  Max Theodor Felix von Laue  born Oct. 9, 1879, Pfaffendorf, near Koblenz, Ger. died April 23, 1960, Berlin, W.Ger.       German recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1914 for his discovery of the diffraction… …   Universalium

  • Laue, Max von — ► (1879 1960) Físico alemán. Fue premio Nobel de Física en 1914, por llevar a cabo el primer experimento satisfactorio sobre interferencias de los rayos X en las redes cristalinas …   Enciclopedia Universal

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