Max Planck


Justin Thomas
Period 4
Chemistry
10/08/96


On April 23, 1858 Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck was born in Kiel, Germany.
He was the sixth child of a law professor at the University of Kiel. At the age
of nine his interest in physics and mathematics was developed by his teacher
Hermann Muller. When he graduated at the age of seventeen he decided to choose
physics over music for his career. Although he is know for physics he was an
exceptional pianist who had acquired the gift of being able to hear absolute
pitch. His favorite works of music were known to be Schubert and Brahms.
Entering the University of Munich in 1874 he got little inspiration and was
unimpressed at the University of Berlin which was between the years of 1877 and
1878. He in turn did independent studies primarily on Rudolf Clausius\' writings
of thermodynamics which inspired him and in July 1879 he received his doctoral
degree at the age of twenty-one. He became a lecturer at the University of
Munich. His father helped him be promoted to associate professor at Kiel by
means of professional connections. At the age of thirty he was promoted to full
professor at the University of Berlin.
After he decided to become a theoretical physicist he started a quest for
absolute laws. His favorite absolute law was the law of the conservation of
energy which was the first law of thermodynamics that stated that you could take
any equal amount of energy and transform it into the same equal amount of energy
ideally, meaning no energy was lost. The second law of thermodynamics led him
to discover the quantum of action or Planck\'s constant h. How he came upon his
formula for quantum mechanics well be explained as follows. Planck saw that
blackbody radiation acted in an absolute sense because it was defined by
Kirchhoff as a substance that could absorb almost all radiating energy and emit
all that it had absorbed perfectly which is associated with the first law of
thermodynamics. By using various experiments and theoretical failures many
scientists tried to find the spectral energy distribution to try and draw a
diagram of a curve that showed the amount of radiation given off at different
frequencies for a blackbody with a given temperature. Then using Wien\'s law
which worked out for high frequencies but didn\'t work for low, he saw a
relationship with the mathematics of the entropy of the radiation in the high-
frequency waves in correlation to the low frequency waves and he guessed if he
combined the two in the simplest way that he would get a formula that related to
the amount of radiation to a blackbody\'s frequency. Although Planck\'s formula
was accepted to be correct without argue, he was not satisfied and he tried to
relate his formula with the absolute laws which he loved so much. In order to
make sense of his formula he had to kick the second law of thermodynamics out
the door and accepted it as a statistical law, as it was interpreted by Ludwig
Boltzmann. He also had to accept that the blackbody could not absorb energy
continuously but in separate amounts of energy spread over time like pulses.
Planck called this quanta of energy. To prove his formula even further he used
it to find Planck\'s constant h, which turned out to be a very small number(six
and fifty-five hundredths times ten to the negative twenty-seventh power). The
fact that Planck\'s constant was not zero and it was in fact a number made the
unseen physical world indescribable by classical methods which sparked a
revolution in physical theory.
When Planck discovered the theory of quantum he was forty-two and then
later won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1918. After his discovery he still
contributed to physics increasingly. Planck was the first physicist to back up
Einstein\'s theory of relativity. After he retired as a physicist which was
around the time Hitler rose to power Planck focused on philosophical and
questions of faith in his writings. During the World War I he stayed in Germany
to preserve as much as he could of German physics. The later part of Max
Planck\'s life is filled with sadness. In 1909 his first wife died after twenty-
two years of marriage. He later married another women in which he had one child.
His children from his first wife which was Marie Merek included twin sisters
and two sons who managed to all die before he did. His first son Karl was
killed in action in 1916 and then one year later