Max von Laue
Born: 9 October 1879, Pfaffendorf, Germany
Died: 23 April 1960, Berlin, West Germany (now Germany)
Affiliation at the time of the award: Frankfurt-on-the-Main University, Frankfurt-on-the-Main, Germany
Prize motivation: "for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals"
Field: atomic physics, interferometry
Prize share: 1/1
A phenomenon known as "diffraction patterns" occurs when waves pass through small, tightly spaced openings in a screen. In 1912, Max von Laue came upon the idea that X-rays passing through crystals might create similar patterns. That is, that a crystal's structure would correspond to the openings in a screen. Experiments confirmed Max von Laue's idea. This demonstrated that X-rays could be described as waves. The method also made it possible to use diffraction patterns to determine crystals' structures.