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Published by Oxford University Press on May 29 2015
Planck's Law, an equation used by physicists to determine the radiation leaking from any object in the universe, was described by Albert Einstein as "the basis of all twentieth-century physics." Max Planck is credited with being the father of quantum theory, and his work laid the foundation for our modern understanding of matter and energetic processes. But Planck's story is not well known, especially in the United States. A German physicist working during the first half of the twentieth century, his library, personal journals, notebooks, and letters were all destroyed with his home in World War II. What remains, other than his contributions to science, are handwritten letters in German shorthand, and tributes from other scientists of the time, including his close friend Albert Einstein.Amazon •
In Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War, Brandon R. Brown interweaves the voices and writings of Planck, his family, and his contemporaries-with many passages appearing in English for the first time-to create a portrait of a groundbreaking physicist working in the midst of war. Planck spent much of his adult life grappling with the identity crisis of being an influential German with ideas that ran counter to his government. During the later part of his life, he survived bombings and battlefields, surgeries and blood transfusions, all the while performing his influential work amidst a violent and crumbling Nazi bureaucracy. When his son was accused of treason related to a bombing, Planck tried to use his standing as a German "national treasure," and wrote direct letters to Hitler to spare his son's life. Brown tells the story of Planck's friendship with the far more outspoken Albert Einstein, and shows how his work fits within the explosion of technology and science that occurred during his life.
The story of a brilliant man living in a dangerous time, Brandon Brown gives Max Planck his rightful place in the history of science, and shows how war-torn Germany deeply impacted his life and work.
“He’d seen his colleagues, including Lise, driven from the Fatherland. He’d seen the ever-advancing thresher of new laws, first limiting, then persecuting, then gathering Jews along with other Nazi targets. He must have known of the inhuman trains, even if he didn’t know their destination.”
This book focuses not only on Max Planck’s contributions to the scientific community, but his contribution to his his county, family, friends, and fellow scientists during one of the most harrowing times of Germany’s history. Planck had jewish friends and was often mocked as being a “white jew” himself, his standing as a credible physicist taking dire blows because of his association with the jews. But through it all, he also did not give up on his fatherland.
The book is well written- the author including several quotes about Planck from his friends and former students. It also includes Planck’s involvement with other physicists including Albert Einstein. The author is even comical at times, comparing Planck’s “Phantom Problems” to “The Ultimate Question” in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Overall, Planck was an intriguing read with insightful information on the life of the physicist. I recommend this book to fans of autobiographies or anyone looking to dig just a little deeper into the life of Planck.