Physics at the University Vienna and the Radium Institute between 1913 and 1950

AbstraktSince 1850 the University Vienna’s physics had insufficient buildings, however, 1913 a magnificent and spacious physics building was opened adjacent to the new Institute of Radium Research of the Imperial Academy of Science, which was already finished in 1910. Within a few years the Radium Institute enjoyed international reputation. For example, the discovery of the cosmic rays (Hess) and the development of the radioactive tracer method (Hevesy) were honoured with Nobel prizes later. The First World War hindered the development of the Viennese physics considerably. The hopeful theorist Fritz Hasenöhrl died in the war. Hans Thirring became a defender of the theory of relativity and calculated together with Josef Lense the later so-called Thirring-Lense effect in 1918. At that time, Erwin Schrödinger and Fritz Kohlrausch were concerned with radioactivity and the physics of colors in the Second Institute of Physics, whereas the somewhat stubborn and unorthodox Felix Ehrenhaft investigated electrical charge measurement and photophoresis. In 1920, when the position of Franz Exner had to be filled, a reorganisation of the physics institutes and of the teaching duties was done. Felix Ehrenhaft got a small new institute, the Third Institute of physics, which was established at the expense auf Ernst Lecher’s First and Gustav Jäger’s Second Physical Institute and existed until 1938. Additionally, a common library was founded managed by the Institute of Theoretical Physics. The research focus in the Radium Institute changed to the beginning nuclear physics. Famous are the photographic tracks of the disintegration of light nuclei obtained by Marietta Blau. In 1938 the discrimination of pacifistic or Jewish professors and students reached a first culmination: Hans Thirring and Stefan Meyer were dismissed, Felix Ehrenhaft was mistreated by his colleagues, Georg Stetter and Gerhard Kirsch, and was forced to emigrate as well as Marietta Blau, Karl Przibram and other scientists. So only the persons suiting the National Socialist regime headed the institutes up to 1945. During the Second World War a “Vierjahresplaninstitut für Neutronenforschung” was organised. It was led by Georg Stetter and provided some resources for research. After the war the University Vienna had a shortage of staff and denazification processes were done rigorously. Physicists like Thirring and Meyer were rehabilitated. Ehrenhaft and Przibram returned to Vienna and got the head of the First and Second Institute of Physics, respectively.
NameSachslehner, Franz
Veranstaltung66. Jahrestagung der Österreichischen Physikalischen Gesellschaft (ÖPG 2016)
Art der VeranstaltungKonferenz
Keywords:103010 Geschichte der Physik