German Physical Society

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Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft e.V.
52,220 (2022)
Key people
Joachim Ullrich (President)

The German Physical Society (German: Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, DPG) is the oldest organisation of physicists. The DPG's worldwide membership is cited as 52,220, as of 2022,[1] making it one of the largest national physics societies in the world. The number of the DPG's members peaked in 2014, when it reached 63,000, but it has been decreasing since then. It holds an annual conference (Jahrestagung) and multiple spring conferences (Frühjahrstagungen), which are held at various locations and along topical subjects of given sections of the DPG.[2][3] The DPG serves the fields of pure and applied physics. Main aims are to bring its members and all physicists living in Germany closer together, represent their entirety outwards as well as foster the exchange of ideas between its members and foreign colleagues. The DPG binds itself and its members to advocate for freedom, tolerance, veracity and dignity in science and to be aware about the fact that the people working in science are responsible to a particularly high extent for the configuration of the overall human activity.


The DPG itself does not carry out any research, but its conferences promote the sharing of information about the latest findings in the field of physics. The traditional spring meetings held by the DPG each year at venues across the country are among largest physics conferences in Europe, attended by around 10,000 experts from Germany and abroad.[4] Fostering young talent is another central concern of the DPG : its conferences provide a platform particularly for younger scientists. The conferences provide students with opportunities to meet renowned scientists in person. The DPG also runs a nationwide network for physics students in the working group Young DPG. Female physicists have a forum of their own in the annual German Conference of Women in Physics. In partnership with the Bonn-Cologne Graduate School of Physics and Astronomy (BCGS), the DPG also provides a platform for students of the school to network with leaders in the field with the annual BCGS Weekend Seminar : a retreat with physics lectures across several areas including excursions and social events.

Awards and school projects[edit]

The DPG honours outstanding achievements in physics with awards of international repute. The highest awards which are presented by the DPG are the Max Planck Medal for work in theoretical physics, first awarded in 1929, and the Stern–Gerlach Medal for work in experimental physics, first awarded in 1933. Some awards, such as the Gustav Hertz Prize for Young Physicists, intend to foster young talent. Others are awarded by the DPG in cooperation with other organisations in Germany and abroad, such as the Max Born Medal and Prize or the Otto Hahn Prize. The Medal for Natural Science Journalism is awarded by the DPG to personalities who have made a special contribution to bringing scientific facts to the attention of the general public. In addition, the DPG awards prizes to school graduates throughout the country for outstanding achievements in physics.[5] It supports competitions for school students such as the Jugend forscht (national research contest for young scientists), promotes innovative school projects and organises advanced training courses for teaching staff.

Young Scientist Award for Socio- and Econophysics[edit]

Since 2002, the Fachverband Physik sozio-ökonomischer Systeme (Physics of Socio-Economic Systems Division) recognizes "outstanding original contributions that use physical methods to develop a better understanding of socio-economic problems".[6] Awardees are Vittoria Colizza (2013), Arne Traulsen (2012), Santo Fortunato (2011), Dirk Brockmann (2010), Duncan Watts (2009), Fabrizio Lillo (2008), Katarzyna Sznajd-Weron (2007) for the Sznajd model, Xavier Gabaix (2006), Reuven Cohen (2005), Illes Farkas (2004), Vasliki Plerou (2002) and Damien Challet (2002).


The DPG produces a range of various publications. The membership journal of the DPG Physik Journal provides news reports from the DPG and about physics in general. Besides, the DPG joins forces with the British Institute of Physics to publish the electronic open access journal New Journal of Physics. The articles published here have gone through a strict peer review in line with the stringent scientific quality standards propounded by the New Journal of Physics. Moreover, the DPG also publishes its conference programme every year under the name Verhandlungen der DPG (Programme Booklets for DPG Conferences), listing the abstracts of around 8,000 papers. And the web portal, operated jointly by the DPG and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), provides much information about physics even for nonexperts.

Historical publications[edit]

Publications of the DPG have included:[7][8]

From the time of its creation in 1845, the DPG published Fortschritte der Physik and its Verhandlungen, but by 1919, the Verhandlungen had become too voluminous, so DPG chairman Arnold Sommerfeld formed a committee consisting of Albert Einstein, Eugen Goldstein, Fritz Haber, E. Jahnke, Karl Scheel, and Wilhelm Westphal, which recommended that a new journal, the Zeitschrift für Physik, should be established for rapid publication of original research articles by established scientists without peer review; it began publication the following year. In 1975 Zeitschrift für Physik was merged with Physics of Condensed Matter (ISSN 0340-2347). Zeitschrift für Physik was published as a 4-part journal from 1920–1997 by Springer-Verlag under the auspices of the DPG. During the early 20th century, it was considered one of the most prestigious journals in physics, with its golden years coinciding with the golden years of quantum mechanics.[9] It was the vehicle used by those with avant-garde views and the young generation of quantum physicists in the 1920s.[10]

Physics and public relations[edit]

The DPG plays an active role in the dialogue between science and the general public with a range of popular scientific publications, physics outreach, and public events. These activities also include the Highlights of Physics, an annual physics festival organised jointly by the DPG and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It is the largest festival of its kind in Germany with around 30,000 visitors every year.[11]

Social discussions[edit]

The DPG engages in socio-political discussions by releasing press statements, carrying out studies, giving statements and attending parliamentary evenings. It deals with current issues such as fostering young talent, climate protection, energy supply or arms control through to science and cultural history issues. The DPG is particularly committed to equal opportunities for men and women and to promote women in natural sciences.

In Bonn and Berlin[edit]

The DPG office headed by the Chief Executive Bernhard Nunner is located in the Physikzentrum Bad Honnef (physics conference centre in Bad Honnef), in the neighbourhood of the university and federal city of Bonn. The Physikzentrum is not only a meeting place and discussion forum of outstanding significance for physics in Germany but also an international brand for the discipline of physics. Students and cutting edge scientists through to Nobel Prize winners meet here to share their thoughts and ideas on a scientific level. Teaching staffs also gladly come to Bad Honnef time and again to attend advanced training courses relating to pure physics and the didactic aspects of this discipline, in the seminars held by the DPG. The DPG is also present in Germany's capital Berlin. It has been running the Magnus-Haus in Berlin since its reunification with the Physical Society of East Germany in 1990. This urban palace completed in 1760 – bearing the name of the natural scientist Gustav Magnus – has close links to the history of the DPG: it was the regular meeting place of scholars during the 19th century that eventually resulted in the Physical Society of Berlin being founded in 1845, which later became the DPG. Today it is a venue for meetings and lectures on physical and socio-political issues. The Magnus-Haus is also home to the DPG's historical archive.

Under National Socialism[edit]

The DPG was in opposition to National Socialism's persecution of the Jews in general, and their promotion of Deutsche Physik, in particular. On 7 April 1933, barely two months after Adolf Hitler came to power on 30 January 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, was passed; under this law, Jewish civil servants and regime opponents were removed from their jobs. These policies had significant effects on physics in Germany[12][13] through significant qualitative and quantitative losses of physicists as a result of emigration and through political decisions overriding those based on academic and scientific considerations; 25% of the physicists holding academic positions in the period 1932–1933 were lost due to the policies.[14] The opposition, for example, the DPG not immediately dismissing Jews after passage of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, Max von Laue's address at the opening of the 1933 physics convention in Würzburg, opposition to Johannes Stark exercising the Führerprinzip in attempting to become the dictator of physics, and Carl Ramsauer's opposition to the politicization of education:

  • When the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed in 1933, the DPG dragged its feet in the dismissal of Jews for more than five years. It was not until the end of 1938, on the initiation of Herbert Stuart and Wilhelm Orthmann, that the DPG asked Jewish members to withdraw their membership.[7][15]
  • Max von Laue, as chairman of the DPG, gave the opening address at the 1933 physics convention held in Würzburg. In it, he compared the persecution of Galileo and the oppression of his scientific views on the Solar theory of Copernicus to the then conflict and persecution over the theory of relativity by the proponents of Deutsche Physik, against Einstein's theory of relativity, labeled as “Jewish physics.”[16]
  • Johannes Stark, a holder of the Nobel Prize in Physics, was a proponent of Deutsche Physik. Acting under the Führerprinzip, Stark attempted to become “dictator of physics,” as part of a plan to reorganize and coordinate German scientific societies to National Socialist ideology and policies. These actions brought opposition from members of the DPG. For example, Max von Laue, in 1933, blocked Stark's regular membership in the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften.[17] Furthermore, also in 1933, Stark, President of the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt (PTR),[18] ran for president of the DPG against Karl Mey, the industrial physicist and head of Osram. Stark received only two votes! In retribution, Stark canceled the DPG's use of its rooms in the PTR, deleted PTR travel expenses for its personnel to attend DPG meetings, and forbade PTR personnel from lecturing at DPG meetings.[19]
  • Carl Ramsauer, president of the DPG 1940 to 1945, and his deputy, Wolfgang Finkelnburg, steered a relatively independent course from the party line of the National Socialists and against Deutsche Physik, which was anti-Semitic and anti-theoretical physics, especially including modern physics, i.e., quantum mechanics. Early in 1942, as chairman of the DPG, Ramsauer, on Felix Klein's initiative and with the support of Ludwig Prandtl, submitted a petition to Reich Minister Bernhard Rust, at the Reichserziehungsministerium (Reich Education Ministry). The petition, a letter and six attachments,[20] addressed the atrocious state of physics instruction in Germany, which Ramsauer concluded was the result of politicization of education.[21][22][23][24]


After the conclusion of World War II, in 1946, von Laue initiated the founding of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft in only the British Zone, as the Allied Control Council would not initially allow organizations across occupation zone boundaries. The DPG was eventually also reinstituted individually in the American and French sectors. These individually established organizations were united in West Germany in 1950, only after the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany on 23 May 1949. It was only after the fall of the Berlin Wall that the DPG again fully unified across Germany.[25]


Presidents of Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft from 1845 to 1945

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Zahlen und Fakten".
  2. ^ "Official Web site" (in German). DPG.
  3. ^ Circa 1918 its membership was about 750 and in the 1930s about 1400. See Hentschel, 1996, Appendix A.
  4. ^ Physik Journal 09/2011 S.99 ff – DPG Annual Report 2010
  5. ^ DPG Archived 2007-04-29 at the Wayback Machine – Medals and Prizes
  6. ^ "Young Scientist Award for Socio- and Econophysics". Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft. Archived from the original on 20 October 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  7. ^ a b Hentschel, 1996, Appendix A; see the entry for the DPG.
  8. ^ Jungnickel, Volume 2, 1990, p. 421. See the listing for the German Physical Society.
  9. ^ Zeitschrift für Physik: A Historical Reminiscence Archived 2012-03-24 at the Wayback Machine at the EPJ website.
  10. ^ Kragh, 1999, pp. 150–151.
  11. ^ Home
  12. ^ Beyerchen, 1977, pp. 40–50.
  13. ^ Kragh, 1999, 230–256.
  14. ^ Beyerchen, 1977, p. 200. The losses in the physics community were significantly higher than the losses in the other natural sciences.
  15. ^ DPG Archived 2007-08-17 at the Wayback Machine – Membership 1938 vs. 1939
  16. ^ Max von Laue My Development as a Physicist Archived 2008-05-29 at the Wayback Machine. Von Laue’s speech is printed in the appendix.
  17. ^ Hentschel, 1996, Appendix F; see the entry for Max von Laue.
  18. ^ Stark was President of the PTR as of May 1933, and the DPG election was in September of that year.
  19. ^ Hoffmann, 2005, pp. 299 and 307.
  20. ^ Letter to Bernhard Rust, 20 January 1942. Document # 90 in Hentschel, 1996, pp. 278–281.
    • Attachment I: American Physics Outdoes German Physics. Document #91 in Hentschel, 1996, pp. 281–284.
    • Attachment II: Publications Against Modern Theoretical Physics. Cited in Hentschel, 1996, p. 279, but omitted from the anthology.
    • Attachment III: The Crucial Importance of Theoretical Physics and Particularly Modern Theoretical Physics. Cited in Hentschel, 1996, p. 280, but omitted from the anthology.
    • Attachment IV: Refuting Allegations that Modern Theoretical Physics is a Product of the Jewish Spirit. Document 92 in Hentschel, 1996, pp. 290–292.
    • Attachment V: Excerpt from an attachment to Ludwig Prandtl’s letter to Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, 28 April 1941. Cited in Hentschel, 1996, 280; see Document #85 in Hentschel, 1996, pp. 261- 266.
    • Attachment VI: The Munich Conciliation and Pacification Attempt. Document #93 in Hentschel, 1996, pp. 290 – 292.
  21. ^ Hentschel, 1966, Appendix A; see the entry for the DPG.
  22. ^ Hentschel, 1966, Appendix F, see the entry for Carl Ramsauer.
  23. ^ Beyerchen, 1977, pp. 184–186.
  24. ^ Hoffmann, 2005, 306 – 314.
  25. ^ Hentschel, 1996, Appendix A; see the entry on the DPG.
  26. ^ Heilbron, 2000, p. 84.
  27. ^ Hentschel, 1996, Appendix F; see the entry for Arnold Sommerfeld.
  28. ^ Beyerchen, 1977, p. 107.
  29. ^ Hentschel, 1966, Appendix F, see the entry for Walter Gerlach.
  30. ^ Hentschel, 1996, Appendix F; see the entry for Wolfgang Finkelnburg.
  31. ^ "Dieter Meschede to be President of the German Physical Society from 2018 to 2020" (Press release). Bad Honnef: Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft. 8 March 2017. Archived from the original on 13 July 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  32. ^ "Lutz Schröter new president of the German Physical Society" (Press release). German Physical Society. 30 March 2020. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  33. ^ "Joachim Ullrich New President of the German Physical Society" (Press release). German Physical Society. 4 January 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2023.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]