Ernst Gehrcke

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Ernst J. L. Gehrcke (1 July 1878 in Berlin – 25 January 1960 in Hohen-Neuendorf) was a German experimental physicist. He was director of the optical department at the Reich Physical and Technical Institute. Concurrently, he was a professor at the University of Berlin. He developed the Lummer–Gehrcke method in interferometry, he discovered anode rays, and he developed the multiplex interferometric spectroscope for precision resolution of spectral-line structures. As an anti-relativist, he was a speaker at an event organized in 1920 by the Working Society of German Scientists. He sat on the board of trustees of the Potsdam Astrophysical Observatory. After World War II, he worked at Carl Zeiss Jena, and he helped to develop and become the director of the Institute for Physiological Optics at the University of Jena. In 1949, he began work at the German Office for Materials and Product Testing. In 1953, he became the director of the optical department of the German Office for Weights and Measures.

Education[edit]

Gehrcke studied at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (today, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) from 1897 to 1901. He received his doctorate under Emil Warburg in 1901.[1]

Career[edit]

In 1901, Gehrcke joined the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt (PTR, Reich Physical and Technical Institute, after 1945 renamed the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt). In 1926, he became the director of the optical department, a position he held until 1946. Concurrent with his position at the PTR, he was a Privatdozent at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität from 1904 to 1921 and an außerordentlicher Professor (extraordinarius professor) from 1921 to 1946. After the close of World War II, the University was in the Russian sector of Berlin.[2][3]

In 1946, Gehrcke worked at Carl Zeiss AG in Jena, and he helped to develop and become the director of the Institute for Physiological Optics at the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. In 1949, he went to East Berlin to the Deutsches Amt für Materialprüfung (German Office for Materials and Product Testing). In 1953, he became the director of the optical department of the Deutsches Amt für Maß und Gewicht (DAMG, German Office for Weights and Measures) in East Berlin, the East German equivalent to the West German Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (Federal Physical and Technical Institute).[4][5]

Gehrcke contributed to the experimental techniques of interference spectroscopy (interferometry), physiological optics, and the physics of electrical discharges in gases. In 1903, with Otto Lummer, he developed the Lummer–Gehrcke method in interferometry. In 1908, with O. Reichenheim, he discovered anode rays. In 1927, with Ernst Gustav Lau, he developed the multiplex interferometric spectroscope for precision resolution of spectral-line structures.[6][7]

Gehrcke, an experimentalist who would not give up the concept of the luminiferous aether, had been critical of relativity since 1911. This played into an event organized by Paul Weyland. Weyland, a radical political activist, professional troublemaker, small-time criminal,[8][9] and editor of the anti-Semitic periodical Völkische Monatshefte, organized the Arbeitsgemeinschaft deutscher Naturforscher zur Erhaltung reiner Wissenschaft (Working Society of German Scientists for the Preservation of Pure Science), which was never officially registered. Weyland enlisted the support of prominent scientists, such as the physics Nobel Laureate Philipp Lenard to lend credibility to the Society. The Society held its first and only event on 24 August 1920, featuring lectures against Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Weyland gave the first presentation in which he slandered Einstein as a plagiarizer.[10][11] Gehrcke gave the second and last presentation. Einstein, for entertainment, attended the event with Walther Nernst. Max von Laue, Walther Nernst, and Heinrich Rubens published a brief and dignified response to the event, in the leading Berlin daily Tägliche Rundschau, on 26 August. Einstein published a lengthy reply on 27 August, which he later regretted as it contributed to the public polemics. Anti-Semitism and anti-theoretical physics (especially with respect to the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics) were core elements of the Deutsche Physik movement.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

The physics Nobel Laureate Philipp Lenard suggested Gehrcke for the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.[19]

From 1922 to 1925, Gehrcke was also a member of the Kuratorium (board of trustees) of the Potsdam Astrophysical Observatory. On 9 February 1922, Max Planck nominated Gehrcke, Max von Laue, G. Müller, Walther Nernst to sit on the Kuratorium, and they were installed by the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Prussian Academy of Sciences). Gehrcke represented the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt. During their appointment, they sat four times with Albert Einstein present. This was a surprising collaboration in view of what had happened just 18 months earlier at the gathering under the auspices of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft deutscher Naturforscher and the responses in the press by Einstein, Laue, and Nernst.[20][21]

Memberships[edit]

Gehrcke was a member of professional organizations, which included:[22]

  • Berlin Society of Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory

Literature by Gehrcke[edit]

  • Ernst Gehrcke and Rudolf Seeliger Über das Leuchten der Gase unter dem Einfluss von Kathodenstrahlen, Verh. D. Deutsch. Phys. Ges. (2) 15, 534–539 (1912), cited in Mehra, Volume 1, Part 2, p. 776.
  • Gehrcke, Ernst Die gegen die Relativitätstheorie erhobenen Einwände, Die Naturwissenschaften Volume 1, 62–66 (1913)
  • Gehrcke, Ernst Zur Kritik und Geschichte der neueren Gravitationstheorien, Annalen der Physik Volume 51, Number 4, 119 – 124 (1916)
  • Gehrcke, Ernst Berichtigung zum Dialog über die Relativitätstheorie, Die Naturwissenschaften Volume 7, 147 – 148 (1919)
  • Gehrcke, Ernst Zur Diskussion über den Äther, Zeitschrift der Physik Volume 2, 67 – 68 (1920)
  • Gehrcke, Ernst Wie die Energieverteilung der schwarzen Strahlung in Wirklichkeit gefunden wurde, Physikalische Zeitschrift Volume 37, 439 – 440 (1936)

Books by Gehrcke[edit]

  • Gehrcke, Ernst (editor) Handbuch der physikalischen Optik. In zwei Bänden (Barth, 1927–1928)

Bibliography[edit]

  • Beyerchen, Alan D. Scientists Under Hitler: Politics and the Physics Community in the Third Reich (Yale, 1977) ISBN 0-300-01830-4
  • Einstein, Albert Meine Antwort. Über die anti-relativitätstheoretische G.M.b.H., Berliner Tageblatt Volume 49, Number 402, Morning Edition A, p. 1 (27 August 1920), translated and published as Document #1, Albert Einstein: My Reply. On the Anti-Relativity Theoretical Co., Ltd. [August 27, 1920] in Klaus Hentschel (editor) and Ann M. Hentschel (editorial assistant and translator) Physics and National Socialism: An Anthology of Primary Sources (Birkhäuser, 1996) pp. 1 – 5.
  • Goenner, Hubert The Reaction to Relativity Theory I: The Anti-Einstein Campaign in Germany in 1920 pp. 107–136 in Mara Beller (editor), Robert S. Cohen (editor), and Jürgen Renn Einstein in Context (Cambridge, 1993) ISBN 0-521-44834-4 (paperback)
  • Hentschel, Klaus (Editor) and Ann M. Hentschel (Editorial Assistant and Translator) Physics and National Socialism: An Anthology of Primary Sources (Birkhäuser, 1996)
  • Mehra, Jagdish, and Helmut Rechenberg The Historical Development of Quantum Theory. Volume 1 Part 2 The Quantum Theory of Planck, Einstein, Bohr and Sommerfeld 1900 – 1925: Its Foundation and the Rise of Its Difficulties. (Springer, 2001) ISBN 0-387-95175-X
  • van Dongen, Jeroen Reactionaries and Einstein’s Fame: “German Scientists for the Preservation of Pure Science,” Relativity, and the Bad Nauheim Meeting, Physics in Perspective Volume 9, Number 2, 212–230 (June, 2007). Institutional affiliations of the author: (1) Einstein Papers Project, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA, and (2) Institute for History and Foundations of Science, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80.000, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mehra and Rechenberg, Volume 1, Part 2, 2001, 657.
  2. ^ Mehra and Rechenberg, Volume 1, Part 2, 2001, 657.
  3. ^ Hentschel and Hentschel, 1996, Appendix F; see the entry for Gehrcke.
  4. ^ Mehra and Rechenberg, Volume 1, Part 2, 2001, 657.
  5. ^ Hentschel and Hentschel, 1996, Appendix F; see the entry for Gehrcke.
  6. ^ Mehra and Rechenberg, Volume 1, Part 2, 2001, 657.
  7. ^ Hentschel and Hentschel, 1996, Appendix F; see the entry for Gehrcke.
  8. ^ Heilbron, 2000, 114.
  9. ^ Hentschel and Hentschel, 1996, 1n2.
  10. ^ Heilbron, 2000, 115.
  11. ^ Hentschel and Hentschel, 1996, 1n2.
  12. ^ Hentschel and Hetschel, 1996, Appendix F; see the entry for Weyland.
  13. ^ Heilbron, 2000, 114–115 and 115n72.
  14. ^ Goenner, 1993, 114–115.
  15. ^ Clark, 1971, 256–259.
  16. ^ Albert Einstein Meine Antwort. Über die anti-relativitätstheoretische G.M.b.H., Berliner Tageblatt Volume 49, Number 402, Morning Edition A, p. 1 (27 August 1920), translated and published as Document #1, Albert Einstein: My Reply. On the Anti-Relativity Theoretical Co., Ltd. [August 27, 1920] in Klaus Hentschel (editor) and Ann M. Hentschel (editorial assistant and translator) Physics and National Socialism: An Anthology of Primary Sources (Birkhäuser, 1996) pp. 1 – 5.
  17. ^ Hentschel and Hentschel, 1996, 1n1 and 1n4.
  18. ^ Beyerchen, 1977, 126 – 140.
  19. ^ Goenner, 1993, 114.
  20. ^ Hentschel and Hentschel, 1996, Appendix F; see the entry for Gehrcke.
  21. ^ Goenner, 1993, 116.
  22. ^ Goenner, 1993, 114.