“Even if I had been very delighted to win you over, I still had to expect a rejection from your side.”

Johannes Stark in a letter to Albert Einstein to win him for the TH Aachen, April 1909

Short life history: Johannes Stark

* April 15, 1874 Schickenhof, † June 21, 1957 Traunstein

Stark studied physics in Munich and also obtained a doctorate there. In 1900 he qualified as university lecturer in Goettingen, and his way led him then over Hannover, Aachen, Greifswald and in 1920, as predecessor of Wilhelm Wien (1864–1928) to Wuerzburg. In this time Stark was said to be one of the most excellent experimental physicists of his time. Due to disagreements within the College he resigned office in Wuerzburg in 1922. In the following years he worked in industry and tried in vain to get again a job as professor. Only in 1933 did he receive a new chance in national socialist Germany. Stark became head of the Physical Technical Reichs Institute (PTR) in Berlin from 1933–1939 and from 1934–1936 he was head of the association for mutual assistance founded in an emergency of German Science.

The relationship between Stark and Einstein which could still be described as considerate and friendly around 1910 – Stark tried among other things to win Einstein for the TH Aachen – became worse as time passed by and both of them got more and more into heaviest discussions both on scientific and human level. In the beginning more a supporter of theoretical physics such as the theory of relativity and the quantum theory, Stark became one of its most inveterate foes over the years.

Among other things Stark did important work in the area of electric gas discharge, discovered the optic Doppler effect on canal rays in 1905 and the Stark effect in 1913 which was named after him, i.e. the splitting of spectral lines in the electric field. The Stark effect proved to be one of the most important confirmations of modern quantum physics of the atom. Stark received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1919 for both discoveries.

Like Philipp Lenard’s (1862–1947) also Stark’s nationalism got worse with the beginning of World War I. Last but not least he tried, as head of the PTR and the association for mutual assistance founded in an emergency of German Science to influence physics in Germany to become “German Physics”. That meant the rejection of Jewish, i.e. theoretical physics and a trend towards Arian, i.e. experimental physics.