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Max Von Laue

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Professor Max Von Laue (c1880-1960) of Berlin University

1960 Obituary [1]

To Professor Max von Laue, who died in Berlin on April 23 at the age of 80, was due one of the most revolutionary advances of physics in the present century. His suggestion, made in 1912, and quickly verified by Freidrich and Knipping, that X-rays are diffracted by crystals in a similar manner to that in which light is diffracted by gratings, not only provided proof of the wave nature of X-rays and means for measuring their wavelength, but also, conversely, made it possible by the use of X-rays of known wavelength to determine the structure of crystalline material, including such complicated three-dimensional structures as nucleic acids and proteins.

Born at Pfaffendorf near Coblenz in 1879, he studied theoretical physics at Gottingen, Munich and Berlin, and received his doctor's degree from Max Planck, the originator of the quantum theory.

In 1908 he was appointed lecturer at Munich under Professor Sommerfeld, and it was here that he made the decisive contribution for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1914.

Von Laue was appointed assistant professor of theoretical physics at Zurich University in 1912, and in 1914 became full professor at Frankfurt-on-Main. From 1919 onwards, he held the chair of physics at Berlin, and also directed the Institute of Theoretical Physics.

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