Victor F. Hess


Victor Franz Hess

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Victor Franz Hess
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1936

Born: 24 June 1883, Peggau, Austria

Died: 17 December 1964, Mount Vernon, NY, USA

Affiliation at the time of the award: Innsbruck University, Innsbruck, Austria

Prize motivation: “for his discovery of cosmic radiation”

Prize share: 1/2


When radiation and atoms interact, charged atoms, ions, are often produced. In 1912 Victor Hess measured atmospheric ionization as function of altitude using balloons. Surprisingly, he found that ionization first decreased, but then increased again at higher altitudes. He concluded that the upper atmosphere is ionized by radiation from space. He proved that this radiation is not solar through experiments performed at night and during eclipses: cosmic rays had been discovered.

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