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Philipp von Lenard: Atomic Physics & Anti-Scientific Fascism

Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard (Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard) – physicist, researcher in the field of solid-state physics and atomic physics, Nobel Prize laureate.


Philipp was winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1905 for his work on cathode rays and the following discoveries of their properties. One of his most important contributions was the experimental realization of the photoelectric effect. He found that the energy (speed) of electrons ejected from the cathode depends only on the wavelength and not on the intensity of the incident light.


Lenard was a nationalist and anti-Semite. As an active supporter of Nazi ideology, he supported Adolf Hitler in the 1920s and was an important role model for the “Deutsche Physik” movement during the Nazi period. It is noteworthy that he was an opponent of “Theory of Relativity.” He called Albert Einstein’s greatest contribution to science “Jewish physics.” He also heavily envied the success of Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen after his X-Ray discoveries, claiming that Roentgen was “the midwife” and he was “the real mother of the discovery of X-rays.”

He hated him even in spite of the fact that Wilhelm’s article “On a new kind of rays” starts with mentioning of his name: “a discharge from a large induction coil is passed through a Hittorf’s vacuum tube, or through a well-exhasted Crookes or Lenards’s tube.” Thus, no one was surprised that a scientist with this level of unreasonable anger would join the side of the Hitler.

Erwin Schrödinger: Atomic Physics & “Confession to the Führer”

Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger (August 12, 1887 – January 4, 1961) – theoretical physicist, one of the founders of quantum mechanics. Laureate of the Nobel Prize in Physics (1933). Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (1956), as well as a number of world academies of sciences, including a foreign member of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1934).


In 1933 he and Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac won the Nobel Prize in Physics “for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory.

Erwin Schrödinger is an author of a number of fundamental studies in the field of quantum theory, which formed the basis of wave mechanics. He formulated wave equations (stationery and time-dependent Schrödinger equations).

Erwin developed matrix mechanics, a wave-mechanical perturbation theory and found solutions to a number of various specific problems. In addition, he is also the author of many works in various fields of physics: statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, physics of dielectrics, color theory, electrodynamics, general relativity and cosmology. He made several attempts to construct an unified field theory. In his book “What is Life?” Schrödinger addressed the problems of genetics by looking at the phenomenon of life from the point of view of physics. He paid great attention to the philosophical aspects of science, ancient and oriental philosophical concepts, issues of ethics and religion.


In the late 1930s, all Europeans of that time had a premonition of the next war. Schrödinger was no exception. In 1927, he received an extremely prestigious professor position at the University of Berlin where he probably could have worked all his life. But soon after Hitler rose to power in 1933 Schrodinger decided that he did not want to cooperate with the regime and emigrated to Oxford.

A few years later, history repeated itself backwards. In 1936, Schrödinger left Oxford for Austrian Graz, two years later Austria became part of Hitler’s Germany. As a result Erwin wrote Hitler a letter of admiration, known as Confession to the Führer. It was published in German and Austrian newspapers on 30 March 1938. It says the following:

“It really goes without saying, that for an old Austrian who loves his homeland, no other standpoint can come into question; that — to express it quite crudely — every “no” in the ballot box is equivalent to a national suicide.” Furthermore, he wanted it to go public. Stating “I make this confession willingly and joyfully. I believe it is spoken from the hearts of many, and I hope thereby to serve my homeland.

This letter caused a negative reaction from his emigrated colleagues. Since they did not have to show respect to the regime to leave their countries. However, for all his intellectual superiority, Schrödinger thought this letter was a sensible move. It did not help him hold his position in Graz, and after a few months he was fired due to his political unreliability. And only after that incident Erwin left Austria and went to Rome.