Arnold Sommerfeld

Arnold Johannes William Sommerfeld (* 5. December 1868 in king mountain; † 26. April 1951 in Munich) was a German mathematician and a theoretical physicist.

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Sommerfeld, Sohna scientifically interested practical physician, a study of mathematics began to the Albertina in king mountain, one of the first universities after the Abitur 1886, at which theoretical physics had been established as independent subject. Among his academic teachers so important scholars ranked how David Hilbert, Ferdinand of lime tree man and Adolf Hurwitz. It attained a doctorate there 1891 over the arbitrary transmitting ions in mathematical physics.

1893 went to Sommerfeld to doing the military service to Goettingen, the center at that time of the mathematical science into Germany. It became there firstAssistant at mineralogical Institut, its principal interest however further mathematics and mathematical physics remained. 1894 he became an assistant of the mathematician Felix Klein, who became its scientific model. He wrote 1895 its Habilitationsschrift the mathematical theory of the diffraction under him and became thereafter first private lecturer for mathematics.

1897 married Sommerfeld. It received a call on a tidy Professur of mathematics to the mountain academy Clausthal, 1900 followed the chair for technical mechanics at the technical university Aachen. it received then a Professur for theoretical physics at the university to 1906in Munich, where it developed an important center for theoretical physics. Here he, although he received offers on other renowned chairs, spent the remainder of his career, interrupted by a Gastprofessur in the USA (University OF Wisconsin, 1922/23) and by a journey as more academicTeacher, him to Asia (India, China, Japan) and into the USA leads (1928/29).1935 took place the retirement, it continued to inform however still to 1940 . A cause of this long transition was the follow-up question: Sommerfeld favored Werner Heisenberg as his successor, encountered however resistance ofRepresentatives of German physics in such a way specified, who interspersed in the long run their - in the Sommerfelds' opinion worst all to the selection standing - candidate. After the end of the National Socialist dictatorship Sommerfeld strove again after 1945 around a successor, that could continue the tradition of its school,and suggested among other things Werner Heisenberg, Karl Bechert, Hans Bethe and Carl Friedrich of Weizsäcker , which rejected however.

Sommerfeld died 1951 at the consequences of a traffic accident.


Sommerfeld ranks apart from Max Planck, Albert Einstein and Niels bore among thatResearchers, those at the beginning 20. Century modern theoretical physics with its Grundpfeilern quantum physics and relativity theory created and for the foundation of physics made. He was both and a researcher like also and academic teacher meaning. Its contribution to the science existed less in the formulation more again,revolutionary physical theories as rather in the application of progressive mathematical methods to physical and technical problems. An important contribution to the early quantum theory was the extension of the Bohr atom model, so that with this also the fine structure of the spectral lines of the hydrogen could be explained (DrillingSommerfeld atom model). Thus it introduced also the fine structure constant α. Further it developed a theory of the x-ray, improved the Drude theory the metals electrons by application of quantum mechanics (Drude Sommerfeld theory) and prepared a comprehensive theory of the gyroscope. Sommerfeld was also one thatfirst physicist, who accepted Albert Einsteins special relativity theory, would use and with it intersperse helped. Further Sommerfeld concerned with hydrodynamic sliding bearings and developed the Sommerfeld number designated after him as measure for the load of a camp.

Many famous, partially with the Nobelpreis distinguished physicist 20.Century originate from the Sommerfeld school in such a way specified of theoretical physics, were thus in their career once with him assistant, graduate student or participated temporarily in its training meetings. This school affected the development of its science (in particular the quantum theory and their spreading) strongly, both because of thatQuality of their work as also by many chairs, which were occupied in Germany and the USA by their representatives in the future. With Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli to two with the formulation of quantum mechanics relevant researcher with Sommerfeld attained a doctorate. Further pupils were among other things Peter Debye, Hans Bethe, Isidor Isaac Rabi and Linus Carl Pauling.

Also as authors of specialized books Sommerfeld exerted influence on the science. Its 1919 for the first time published book atomic's building and spectral lines appeared in the following years in constantly extended editions, which the rapidDevelopment of atomic physics in this time reflect. It was long time one of the most important publications, which theoretical findings of recent quantum mechanics accessible for the experimenters made and played with the training of the students an outstanding role.

Sommerfeld was member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences since1908 and Fellow of the Royal Society London since 1926. By the Prussian academy of the sciences 1917 the helmet getting time medal was lent to it and by the German physical society 1931 the Max-Planck medal.


  • theory of the gyroscope. 4 volumes (together with Felix Klein), Leipzig1897-1910
  • atomic's building and spectral lines. Braunschweig 1919
  • lectures on theoretical physics
    • volume 1: Mechanics. Leipzig 1943
    • volume 2: Mechanics of the distortable media. Leipzig 1945
    • volume 3: Electrodynamics. Wiesbaden 1948
    • volume 4: Optics. Wiesbaden 1950
    • volume 5: Thermodynamics and statistics. Wiesbaden1952
    • volume 6: Partial differential equations of physics. Leipzig 1945


  • Michael hitting a corner ore: The atomic physicists. A history of theoretical physics by the example of the Sommerfeld school. Vieweg, Braunschweig 1993 ISBN 3-528-06500-1

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