Marian Smoluchowski

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Marian von Smoluchowski
Marian Smoluchowski.jpg
Marian Ritter von Smolan Smoluchowski
Born (1872-05-28)28 May 1872
Vorder-Brühl, Austria-Hungary
Died 5 September 1917(1917-09-05) (aged 45)
Kraków, Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria
Residence Austria-Hungary
Nationality Polish
Fields Physicist
Institutions University of Lviv
Jagellonian University
Alma mater University of Vienna
Doctoral advisor Franz S. Exner and Joseph Stefan
Doctoral students Jozef Patkowski
Stanislaw Loria
Waclaw Dziewulski
Known for

Pioneering statistical physics
Smoluchowski equation
Einstein-Smoluchowski relation

Smoluchowski coagulation equation
Notable awards Haitinger Prize of the Vienna Academy of Sciences (1908)

Marian von Smoluchowski (Polish: [ˈmarjan smɔluˈxɔfski]; 28 May 1872 – 5 September 1917) was an ethnic Polish scientist in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was a pioneer of statistical physics and an avid mountaineer.


Born into an upper-class family in Vorder-Brühl, near Vienna, Von Smoluchowski studied physics at the University of Vienna. His teachers included Franz S. Exner and Joseph Stefan. Ludwig Boltzmann held a position at Munich University during Von Smoluchowski's studies in Vienna and Boltzmann returned to Vienna in 1894, when Von Smoluchowski was serving in the Austrian army. They apparently had no direct contact, although Von Smoluchowski's work follows in the tradition of Boltzmann's ideas. After several years at other universities (Paris, Glasgow, and Berlin), Von Smoluchowski moved to Lwów in 1899, where he took a position at the University of Lwów. He was a president of Polish Copernicus Society of Naturalists (1906–07).

Marian von Smoluchowski moved to Kraków in 1913, to take over the chair in Experimental Physics Department, succeeding to August Witkowski, who had long envisioned Von Smoluchowski as his successor. When World War I began the following year, the work conditions became unusually difficult, as the spacious and modern Physics Department building, built by Witkowski a short time before, was turned into a military hospital. The possibility of working in that building had been one of the reasons Von Smoluchowski decided to move to Kraków. Von Smoluchowski was now forced to work in the apartment of the late Professor Karol Olszewski. During his lectures of experimental physics, the use of even the simplest demonstration equipment was virtually impossible.

Von Smoluchowski lectured in experimental physics; his students included Jozef Patkowski, Stanislaw Loria and Waclaw Dziewulski. His non-professional interests included skiing, mountain climbing in the Alps and the Tatra Mountains, watercolour painting, and playing the piano.

Marian von Smoluchowski died in Kraków in 1917, the victim of a dysentery epidemic. Professor Wladyslaw Natanson wrote in Von Smoluchowski's obituary: "With great pleasure I would revive the charm of his life, knightly softness of his heart, combined with exquisite kindness. I wish I could reconstruct the odd appeal of his personality, recall how restrained he was, modest, and beautifully timid, yet always full of pure, almost unintentional joy."[citation needed]

Von Smoluchowski was a member of the Copernicus Society of Natural Scientists and the Polish Academy of Sciences and Letters. In 1901 he had married Zofia Baraniecka, who survived him. They had two children, Aldona Smoluchowska (1902-1984) and Roman Smoluchowski (1910-1996). Roman himself was a notable physicist working in Poland and after World War II settling in the United States (notably the Institute for Advanced Study of Princeton).


Von Smoluchowski's scientific output included fundamental work on the kinetic theory of matter. In 1904 he was the first who noted the existence of density fluctuations in the gas phase and in 1908 he became the first physicist to ascribe the phenomenon of critical opalescence to large density fluctuations. His investigations also concerned the blue colour of the sky as a consequence of light dispersion on fluctuations in the atmosphere, as well as explanation of Brownian motion of particles. At that time Von Smoluchowski introduced equations, which presently bear his name.

In 1906, independently of Albert Einstein, he described Brownian motion.[1] Smoluchowski presented an equation which became an important basis of the theory of stochastic processes.

In 1916, he proposed the equation of diffusion in an external potential field. This equation bears his name.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smoluchowski, M. (1906), "Zur kinetischen Theorie der Brownschen Molekularbewegung und der Suspensionen" (PDF), Annalen der Physik, 21 (14): 756–780, Bibcode:1906AnP...326..756V, doi:10.1002/andp.19063261405, retrieved 2008-08-29 


  • A. Teske, Marian Smoluchowski, Leben und Werk. Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, 1977.
  • A. Einstein and M. von Smoluchowski: "Untersuchungen über die Theorie der Brownschen Bewegung. Abhandlung über die Brownsche Bewegung und verwandte Erscheinungen", Harri Deutsch, 1997. (Ostwalds Klassiker der exakten Wissenschaften Band 199). ISBN 3-8171-3207-7.
  • S. Chandrasekhar, M. Kac, R. Smoluchowski, "Marian Smoluchowski - his life and scientific work", ed. by R.S. Ingarden, PWN, Warszawa 1999.
  • E. Seneta (2001) Marian Smoluchowski, Statisticians of the Centuries (ed. C. C. Heyde and E. Seneta) pp. 299–302. New York: Springer.
  • S. Ulam (1957) Marian Smoluchowski and the Theory of Probabilities in Physics, American Journal of Physics, 25, 475-481 (ISSN 0002-9505).
  • Abraham Pais, Subtle is the Lord, chapter 5, section 5e. Einstein and Smoluchowski; Critical Opalescence, (pp. 100–103), Oxford University Press, (1982) 2005, ISBN 0-19-280672-6.

External links[edit]

Media related to Marian Smoluchowski at Wikimedia Commons