Physics in Perspective

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 345–366 | Cite as

Heinrich Hertz and Philipp Lenard: Two Distinguished Physicists, Two Disparate Men

  • Joseph F. Mulligan


Heinrich Hertz (1857–1894) and Philipp Lenard (1862–1947) both had distinguished careers as physicists. They were together in Bonn from April 1891 to January 1894, Hertz as Director of the Bonn Physics Institute, and Lenard as his assistant. Each did important experimental work on cathode rays and the photoelectric effect, and in 1905 Lenard received the Nobel Prize for his work in these fields. Lenard had great respect and admiration for Hertz before going to Bonn and while there, but gradually allowed his esteem for his mentor (who died in 1894) to diminish as Lenard became increasingly anti-Semitic and involved in National Socialism and the Nazi movement. This article illustrates how differences in their characters and personalities, together with the tragic events of the Great War and its aftermath, resulted in Hertz deservedly being much more highly regarded today both as a physicist and as a man than is Lenard.

Key words: Hertz; Lenard; cathode rays; photoelectric effect; X-rays; 19th-century physics; Germany. 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag Basel, 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph F. Mulligan
    • 1
  1. 1.228 Canal Park Drive, (Apt. G-103), Salisbury , MD 21804, USA, e-mail: jmull68640@aol.comUS

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