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Stark, Johannes

physics effect german theory

[shtah®k] (1874–1957) German physicist.

Stark had an extraordinary career, marked by changes of his views in physics, conflict with colleagues and his involvement in a racist political movement and ultimate imprisonment.

His training followed conventional lines and he became a lecturer at Göttingen in 1900, afterwards holding chairs in four German universities. In 1902 he predicted that rapidly moving positive ions in a discharge tube (‘canal rays’) should show a effect (a change of frequency of the light emitted from them, due to their rapid movement). In 1905 he demonstrated this for hydrogen ions, showing high skill as an experimenter: it was the first detection of the effect from a terrestrial light-source. Then in 1913 he looked for an electrical analogy to the effect, in which spectral lines are split by a magnetic field. He found it, again using hydrogen, and a very high-voltage field. This discovery of the Stark effect, along with his earlier work, led to the award to him of the Nobel Prize for physics in 1919.

Meanwhile he had embarked on the strange reversals of his opinion on theory, and the ferocious attacks on other physicists, that are characteristic of his career. Soon after his own work had aided proof of relativity theory, quantum theory and atomic theory, Stark attacked them. Then in 1920 he resigned his chair at Würzburg and, using his Nobel Prize money, attempted a career in the porcelain industry. Failing in this, he tried to return to academic life, despite having antagonized almost all his fellow physicists. By 1934 he was in opposition to most of modern theoretical physics, with his condemnation of ‘all Jews and their theories in science’ and his admiration for Nazi politics, shared by . Eventually, with his attempt to control all German physics, his position even within the Nazi party deteriorated, and he retired to his Bavarian estate in 1939. He had done notable work in physics when young; his later influence was malign. In 1947 a German Denazification Court sentenced him to 4 years in a labour camp.

Starkey, Marion Lena (1901–) - U.S. History [next] [back] Stapleton, Maureen

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