Max Planck


Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1918

Born: 23 April 1858, Kiel, Schleswig (now Germany)

Died: 4 October 1947, Göttingen, West Germany (now Germany)

Affiliation at the time of the award: Berlin University, Berlin, Germany

Prize motivation: “in recognition of the services he rendered to the advancement of Physics by his discovery of energy quanta”

Max Planck received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1919.

Prize share: 1/1


Max Planck was born in Kiel. After studies in Munich, he later became a professor in Berlin. Planck was both an influential scientist and a central figure within the German scientific community. During World War I he worked to minimize the impact of the war on international research collaborations. When the Nazis took power, he felt it his duty to remain in his position and try to defend independent research despite the concessions this required with a regime he disliked.


When a black body is heated, electromagnetic radiation is emitted with a spectrum corresponding to the temperature of the body, and not to its composition. Calculating the form of the spectrum using then-known physical laws gave an unreasonable result; the radiation in the high-frequency area of the spectrum became infinite. Max Planck solved this problem in 1900 by introducing the theory of “quanta”, that is, that radiation consists of quanta with specific energies determined by a new fundamental constant, thereafter called Planck’s constant.

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