Emden was born in St. Gallen, Switzerland. In 1907 he became associate professor of physics and meteorology at the Technical University of Munich. The same year he published the classic work, Gaskugeln: Anwendungen der mechanischen Wärmetheorie auf kosmologische und meteorologische Probleme (Gas balls: Applications of the mechanical heat theory to cosmological and meteorological problems), which provided a mathematical model as a basis of stellar structure. By 1920 he was a member of the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften.
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