The Most Famous

PHYSICISTS from Germany

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This page contains a list of the greatest German Physicists. The pantheon dataset contains 721 Physicists, 90 of which were born in Germany. This makes Germany the birth place of the 2nd most number of Physicists.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary German Physicists of all time. This list of famous German Physicists is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of German Physicists.

Photo of Albert Einstein

1. Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

With an HPI of 94.79, Albert Einstein is the most famous German Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 209 different languages on wikipedia.

Albert Einstein ( EYEN-styne; German: [ˈalbɛʁt ˈʔaɪnʃtaɪn] (listen); 14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest physicists of all time. Einstein is best known for developing the theory of relativity, but he also made important contributions to the development of the theory of quantum mechanics. Relativity and quantum mechanics are together the two pillars of modern physics. His mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, which arises from relativity theory, has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory. His intellectual achievements and originality resulted in "Einstein" becoming synonymous with "genius".In 1905, a year sometimes described as his annus mirabilis ('miracle year'), Einstein published four groundbreaking papers. These outlined the theory of the photoelectric effect, explained Brownian motion, introduced special relativity, and demonstrated mass-energy equivalence. Einstein thought that the laws of classical mechanics could no longer be reconciled with those of the electromagnetic field, which led him to develop his special theory of relativity. He then extended the theory to gravitational fields; he published a paper on general relativity in 1916, introducing his theory of gravitation. In 1917, he applied the general theory of relativity to model the structure of the universe. He continued to deal with problems of statistical mechanics and quantum theory, which led to his explanations of particle theory and the motion of molecules. He also investigated the thermal properties of light and the quantum theory of radiation, which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light. However, for much of the later part of his career, he worked on two ultimately unsuccessful endeavors. First, despite his great contributions to quantum mechanics, he opposed what it evolved into, objecting that nature "does not play dice". Second, he attempted to devise a unified field theory by generalizing his geometric theory of gravitation to include electromagnetism. As a result, he became increasingly isolated from the mainstream of modern physics. Einstein was born in the German Empire, but moved to Switzerland in 1895, forsaking his German citizenship (as a subject of the Kingdom of Württemberg) the following year. In 1897, at the age of 17, he enrolled in the mathematics and physics teaching diploma program at the Swiss Federal polytechnic school in Zürich, graduating in 1900. In 1901 he acquired Swiss citizenship, which he kept for the rest of his life, and in 1903 he secured a permanent position at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. In 1905, he was awarded a PhD by the University of Zurich. In 1914, Einstein moved to Berlin in order to join the Prussian Academy of Sciences and the Humboldt University of Berlin. In 1917, Einstein became director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics; he also became a German citizen again – Prussian this time. In 1933, while Einstein was visiting the United States, Adolf Hitler came to power. Einstein did not return to Germany because he objected to the policies of the newly elected Nazi-led government. He settled in the United States and became an American citizen in 1940. On the eve of World War II, he endorsed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt alerting him to the potential German nuclear weapons program and recommending that the US begin similar research. Einstein supported the Allies but generally denounced the idea of nuclear weapons.

Photo of Wilhelm Röntgen

2. Wilhelm Röntgen (1845 - 1923)

With an HPI of 87.99, Wilhelm Röntgen is the 2nd most famous German Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 125 different languages.

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (; German pronunciation: [ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈʁœntɡən] (listen); 27 March 1845 – 10 February 1923) was a German mechanical engineer and physicist, who, on 8 November 1895, produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range known as X-rays or Röntgen rays, an achievement that earned him the inaugural Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. In honour of Röntgen's accomplishments, in 2004 the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) named element 111, roentgenium, a radioactive element with multiple unstable isotopes, after him. The unit of measurement roentgen was also named after him.

Photo of Max Planck

3. Max Planck (1858 - 1947)

With an HPI of 86.63, Max Planck is the 3rd most famous German Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 134 different languages.

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, (German: [maks ˈplaŋk] (listen); English: ; 23 April 1858 – 4 October 1947) was a German theoretical physicist whose discovery of energy quanta won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.Planck made many substantial contributions to theoretical physics, but his fame as a physicist rests primarily on his role as the originator of quantum theory, which revolutionized human understanding of atomic and subatomic processes. In 1948, the German scientific institution Kaiser Wilhelm Society (of which Planck was twice president) was renamed Max Planck Society (MPS). The MPS now includes 83 institutions representing a wide range of scientific directions.

Photo of Werner Heisenberg

4. Werner Heisenberg (1901 - 1976)

With an HPI of 84.24, Werner Heisenberg is the 4th most famous German Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 104 different languages.

Werner Karl Heisenberg (; German pronunciation: [ˈvɛɐ̯nɐ ˈhaɪzn̩ˌbɛɐ̯k] (listen); 5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist and one of the key pioneers of quantum mechanics. He published his work in 1925 in a breakthrough paper. In the subsequent series of papers with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, during the same year, this matrix formulation of quantum mechanics was substantially elaborated. He is known for the uncertainty principle, which he published in 1927. Heisenberg was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the creation of quantum mechanics".Heisenberg also made important contributions to the theories of the hydrodynamics of turbulent flows, the atomic nucleus, ferromagnetism, cosmic rays, and subatomic particles. He was a principal scientist in the German nuclear weapons program during World War II. He was also instrumental in planning the first West German nuclear reactor at Karlsruhe, together with a research reactor in Munich, in 1957. Following World War II, he was appointed director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics, which soon thereafter was renamed the Max Planck Institute for Physics. He was director of the institute until it was moved to Munich in 1958. He then became director of the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics from 1960 to 1970. Heisenberg was also president of the German Research Council, chairman of the Commission for Atomic Physics, chairman of the Nuclear Physics Working Group, and president of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Photo of Georg Ohm

5. Georg Ohm (1789 - 1854)

With an HPI of 83.33, Georg Ohm is the 5th most famous German Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 89 different languages.

Georg Simon Ohm (, German: [ˈɡeːɔʁk ˈʔoːm]; 16 March 1789 – 6 July 1854) was a German physicist and mathematician. As a school teacher, Ohm began his research with the new electrochemical cell, invented by Italian scientist Alessandro Volta. Using equipment of his own creation, Ohm found that there is a direct proportionality between the potential difference (voltage) applied across a conductor and the resultant electric current. This relationship is known as Ohm's law, and the ohm, the standard unit of electrical resistance, is named after him.

Photo of Heinrich Hertz

6. Heinrich Hertz (1857 - 1894)

With an HPI of 82.92, Heinrich Hertz is the 6th most famous German Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 89 different languages.

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz ( HURTS; German: [ˈhaɪnʁɪç ˈhɛʁts]; 22 February 1857 – 1 January 1894) was a German physicist who first conclusively proved the existence of the electromagnetic waves predicted by James Clerk Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism. The unit of frequency, cycle per second, was named the "hertz" in his honor.

Photo of Hermann von Helmholtz

7. Hermann von Helmholtz (1821 - 1894)

With an HPI of 78.99, Hermann von Helmholtz is the 7th most famous German Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 68 different languages.

Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (31 August 1821 – 8 September 1894) was a German physicist and physician who made significant contributions in several scientific fields. The largest German association of research institutions, the Helmholtz Association, is named after him.In physiology and psychology, he is known for his mathematics of the eye, theories of vision, ideas on the visual perception of space, color vision research, and on the sensation of tone, perception of sound, and empiricism in the physiology of perception. In physics, he is known for his theories on the conservation of energy, work in electrodynamics, chemical thermodynamics, and on a mechanical foundation of thermodynamics. As a philosopher, he is known for his philosophy of science, ideas on the relation between the laws of perception and the laws of nature, the science of aesthetics, and ideas on the civilizing power of science.

Photo of Otto von Guericke

8. Otto von Guericke (1602 - 1686)

With an HPI of 78.16, Otto von Guericke is the 8th most famous German Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 55 different languages.

Otto von Guericke ( GAIR-ik-ə, US also GWAIR-, -⁠kee, German: [ˈɔtoː fɔn ˈɡeːʁɪkə]; spelled Gericke until 1666; November 20, 1602 – May 11, 1686 [Julian calendar]; November 30, 1602 – May 21, 1686 [Gregorian calendar]) was a German scientist, inventor, and politician. His pioneering scientific work, the development of experimental methods and repeatable demonstrations on the physics of the vacuum, atmospheric pressure, electrostatic repulsion, his advocacy for the reality of "action at a distance" and of "absolute space" were remarkable contributions for the advancement of the Scientific Revolution.Von Guericke was a very pious man in the Dionysian tradition and attributed the vacuum of space to the creations and designs of an infinite divinity. Von Guericke described this duality "as something that ‘contains all things’ and is ‘more precious than gold, without beginning and end, more joyous than the perception of bountiful light’ and ‘comparable to the heavens’."

Photo of Gustav Ludwig Hertz

9. Gustav Ludwig Hertz (1887 - 1975)

With an HPI of 77.24, Gustav Ludwig Hertz is the 9th most famous German Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 75 different languages.

Gustav Ludwig Hertz (German: [ˈɡʊs.taf ˈluːt.vɪç hɛʁt͡s] (listen); 22 July 1887 – 30 October 1975) was a German experimental physicist and Nobel Prize winner for his work on inelastic electron collisions in gases, and a nephew of Heinrich Rudolf Hertz.

Photo of Wilhelm Eduard Weber

10. Wilhelm Eduard Weber (1804 - 1891)

With an HPI of 77.02, Wilhelm Eduard Weber is the 10th most famous German Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.

Wilhelm Eduard Weber (; German: [ˈveːbɐ]; 24 October 1804 – 23 June 1891) was a German physicist and, together with Carl Friedrich Gauss, inventor of the first electromagnetic telegraph.

Pantheon has 90 people classified as physicists born between 1575 and 1957. Of these 90, 12 (13.33%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living physicists include Arno Allan Penzias, Gerd Binnig, and Herbert Kroemer. The most famous deceased physicists include Albert Einstein, Wilhelm Röntgen, and Max Planck. As of October 2020, 10 new physicists have been added to Pantheon including Jürgen Ehlers, Ralph Kronig, and Alfred Landé.

Living Physicists

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Deceased Physicists

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Newly Added Physicists (2020)

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Which Physicists were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Physicists since 1700.