163 years ago, a German theoretical physicist, the founder of quantum physics Max Planck, was born.

The scientist was studying the radiation of an absolutely black body, but the experimental data he obtained contradicted the ideas of classical physics of the time. This prompted him to discover new physics, namely the quantum theory.

The formula derived by Planck made it possible to calculate radiation curves correctly, but to manage that feat the physicist had to assume that atoms emitting rays give out their energy not in a continuous stream but in small indivisible bursts, which the scientist called “quanta of energy.”

Remarkably, at the end of the 19th century, before the discovery of quantum theory, scientists stated that there was no room for new discoveries in physics, and Max Planck, the future pioneer of quantum mechanics, was advised not to dabble in physics, for “almost everything has already been discovered.” But Planck continued his studies of radiation of an absolutely black body and wondered: why does it have that very radiation spectrum? A new theory devised by Planck diverged radically from the concepts of the time concerning the nature of electromagnetic waves, because all wave processes were considered absolutely continuous.

“My futile attempts to somehow introduce a quantum of action into classical theory continued for a number of years and had cost me considerable effort,” Planck wrote. The scientist indeed made a lot of effort trying to align his results with classical physics. Einstein ridiculed those efforts: as he disagreed with Planck’s opinion that light is only emitted by quanta, but is absorbed continuously, the creator of the theory of relativity expressed himself aphoristically: “You mean, always in the dining room, but only sometimes in the bathroom?”

Planck’s discovery can be considered the birth of a fundamentally new theory, the quantum theory. Planck blazed the trail for subsequent development of physics in the 20th century and beyond. The scientist himself wrote that he did not think about creating a new science, but only wanted to study in more detail the radiation of an absolutely black body, but his work gave an unexpected result.

Nobel laureate Max Planck was known as an excellent lecturer who could arouse interest in physics in any listener. Based on his lectures, the scientist compiled a five-volume course, Introduction to Theoretical Physics.

The physicist died on October 4, 1947, in Germany at the age of 89.

Based on public sources. 

Photo on the homepage: George Grantham Bain —, public domain,