Franck, James

Franck, James
   physicist; his investigations into energy transfer confirmed much of the foundation for modern atomic physics. Born in Hamburg, he studied in Heidelberg (1901-1902) and there formed a lifelong friendship with Max Born.* At Emil Warburg s laboratory in Berlin,* a collo-quium with Max Planck,* Heinrich Rubens, Ludwig Drude, and Warburg (later joined by Einstein*) was a formative influence on his life. His work on energy transfer, accomplished in these years with Gustav Hertz,* earned him the 1925 Nobel Prize. World War I interrupted Franck's scientific investigations when he served briefly in the army (illness led to his discharge). During 1917-1921 he was ausserordentlicher Professor and head of a department at the Kaiser Wil-helm Institute for Physical Chemistry; the postwar years brought friendship and a working relationship with Niels Bohr. In 1921 he accepted appointment as Professor of Experimental Physics at Gottingen, where he also directed a physics institute. He owed his appointment to Born; his friend had accepted the chair of theoretical physics on condition that a professorship be established for Franck. During the next dozen years the two men, with the young Werner Heisenberg,* formed the nucleus for a Gottingen research community engaged in quantum physics and attracting scientists from around the world. Gottingen's unique community was destroyed by the Nazis. Although Franck was of Jewish ancestry, he was initially allowed to continue his teaching and research. But when legislation forced him to dismiss coworkers and students who were either Jewish or politically unreliable, he resigned in April 1933 and published a courageous anti-Nazi statement. Within months he emigrated, going first to Copenhagen. He accepted a professorship at Johns Hopkins; in 1938 he became Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Chicago. Hertz reflected, at the end of Franck's life, that his friend possessed an extraordinary amount of the talent needed to intuitively judge pure physical facts.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; DSB, vol. 5.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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