26 August 1882|
Hamburg, German Empire
|Died||21 May 1964
Göttingen, West Germany
|Institutions||University of Berlin
University of Göttingen
Johns Hopkins University
University of Chicago
|Alma mater||University of Heidelberg
University of Berlin
|Doctoral advisor||Emil Gabriel Warburg|
|Doctoral students||Wilhelm Hanle
Arthur R. von Hippel
Theodore T. Puck
|Known for||Franck–Condon principle
|Notable awards||Nobel Prize for Physics (1925)|
Franck was Jewish; his parents were Jacob Franck and Rebecca Nachum Drucker. He completed his Ph.D. in 1906 and received his venia legendi, or Habilitation, for physics in 1911, both at the University of Berlin, where he lectured and taught until 1918, having reached the position of extraordinarius professor.
Franck served as a volunteer in the German Army during World War I. He was seriously injured in 1917 in a gas attack and he was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class. Franck became the Head of the Physics Division of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft for Physical Chemistry. In 1920, Franck became ordinarius professor of experimental physics and Director of the Second Institute for Experimental Physics at the University of Göttingen. While there he worked on quantum physics with Max Born, who was Director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics.
In 1933, after the Nazis came to power, Franck, being a Jew, resigned his post in Germany in a letter which he sent to the press for publication. He assisted Frederick Lindermann in helping dismissed Jewish scientists in finding work overseas, before he left Germany in November 1933 to continue his research in the United States, first at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and then, after a year in Denmark, in Chicago. It was there that he became involved in the Manhattan Project during World War II; he was Director of the Chemistry Division of the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago. He was also the chairman of the Committee on Political and Social Problems regarding the atomic bomb; the committee consisted of himself and other scientists at the Met Lab, including Donald J. Hughes, J. J. Nickson, Eugene Rabinowitch, Glenn T. Seaborg, J. C. Stearns and Leó Szilárd. The committee is best known for the compilation of the Franck Report, finished on 11 June 1945, which recommended not to use the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities, based on the problems resulting from such a military application.
Following the end of the war, repelled by the use of the atomic bomb he changed his field of research to photosynthesis.
When Nazi Germany invaded Denmark in World War II, the Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prizes of Max von Laue and James Franck in aqua regia to prevent the Nazis from stealing them. He placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. After the war, he returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The Nobel Society then recast the Nobel Prizes using the original gold.
On his religious views, Franck commented that science was his God and nature was his religion.
Honours and awards
- 1917: Iron Cross, 1st class
- 1925: Nobel Prize in Physics The award was shared with Gustav Ludwig Hertz, and it was for their discovery of the laws governing the impact of electrons on atoms
- 1951: Max Planck Medal of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft
- 1953: Honorary citizen of Göttingen
- 1955: Rumford Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences – For his work on photosynthesis
- 1964: Elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London, for his contribution to the understanding of exchanges of energy in electron collisions, to the interpretation of molecular spectra, and to problems of photosynthesis
- "James Franck". Physics Today 17 (7): 80. 1964. doi:10.1063/1.3051727.
- Kuhn, H. G. (1965). "James Franck 1882-1964". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 11: 53–26. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1965.0004.
- Shampo, M. A. (1984). "James Franck and Gustav Hertz". JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association 252 (11): 1426. doi:10.1001/jama.252.11.1426.
- Rosenberg, J. L. (2004). "The Contributions of James Franck to Photosynthesis Research: A Tribute". Photosynthesis Research 80 (1–3): 71–76. doi:10.1023/B:PRES.0000030453.66865.f6. PMID 16328811.
- Medawar & Pyke. Page 138.
- The Metallurgical Laboratory – known as the Met Lab – was one of four main sites working on the Manhattan Project. The other three were Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Hanford Site.
- "Adventures in radioisotope research", George Hevesy
- See this site at Duke University.
- David Nachmansohn (1979). German-Jewish pioneers in science, 1900-1933: highlights in atomic physics, chemistry, and biochemistry. Springer-Verlag. p. 62. ISBN 9780387904023. "James Franck was born in Hamburg, the son of a Jewish banker. ...As he said, science was his God and nature his religion. He did not insist that his daughters attend religious instruction classes (Religionsunterricht) in school. But he was very proud of his Jewish heritage..."
- Medawar, Jean: Pyke, David (2012). Hitler's Gift: The True Story of the Scientists Expelled by the Nazi Regime (Paperback). New York: Arcade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61145-709-4.
- Nobel Prize Biography
- Annotated bibliography for James Franck from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
- James Franck Biography – American Philosophical Society (Bio appears after Sommerfeld's)
- Rice, Stuart A.; Jortner, Joshua. "James Franck 1882-1964: A Biographical Memoir". U. S. National Academy of Sciences.