NBA History of Science Seminar

Dieter Hoffmann, "Max Planck's Introduction of the Quantum: Institutional and Experimental Context."

Dieter Hoffmann, Research Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

The talk will trace the background for the radiation formula and the quantum hypothesis introduced by Planck in 1900 by focusing on the experimental setting and institutional network in Berlin around the turn of the century.

It will demonstrate the importance of Berlin's Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt (PTR) - an institute for physical and metrological research founded and supported by the State - which brought into play qualified physicists as well as an advanced culture of precision measurement and equipment.

The existence of the PTR made it possible, first, to design a black body, as well as highly sensitive bolometers and other sophisticated measuring instruments. Second, the closely-knit network of Berlin physicists forced a lively interaction of theoretical and experimental research - a culture from which Planck profited in developing the foundation of quantum theory.