Menu ☰

Back to Top

Physics History Network

Over 1000 biographies of physicists and histories of institutions with information pertaining to their lives, careers, and research.

Tip: Search within this page by using Ctrl + F or ⌘ + F


Search Our Catalogs

Archives Books

Collections

Emilio Segré Visual Archives Digital Collections Oral Histories Archival Finding Aids Physics History Network

Preservation and Support

Donating Materials Saving Archival Collections Grants to Archives Documentation Projects History Newsletters

Center for History of Physics

Scholarship & Outreach

Main Navigation

HomeAboutTopic GuidesFeedback

Table of Contents

Biography

AbstractImportant DatesOccupationPlacesSubjects

Relationships

PeopleInstitutions

Resources

Archival as AuthorArchival as SubjectPublished as AuthorPublished as Subject

Walther Nernst

Photo

Dates

June 25, 1864 – November 18, 1941

Authorized Form of Name

Nernst, Walther, 1864-1941

Additional Forms of Names

Nernst, Hermann Walther, 1864-1941

Nernst, W.

Nernst, W. (Walther)

Biography

Abstract

Walther Nernst was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1920 "in recognition of his work in thermochemistry". He is best known for developing the Third Law of Thermodynamics, also known as the Nernst heat theorem, but also conducted noteworthy research in the areas of electrochemistry and photochemistry. He held positions at University of Leipzig, University of Gottingen, and University of Berlin.

Important Dates

June 25, 1864Birth, Wąbrzeźno (Poland).

1883Began undergraduate studies, University of Zurich (Universität Zürich) and University of Graz (Universität Graz).

approx. 1887Researcher under Wilhelm Ostwald, Leipzig University (Universität Leipzig), Leipzig (Germany).

1887Obtained Doctorate, University of Wurzburg (Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg), Wurzburg (Germany).

1889Built on theory of galvanic cells by assuming an “electrolytic pressure of dissolution”.

1893Publishes book, Theoretische Chemie vom Standpunkte der Avogadro'schen Regel und der Thermodynamik (Theoretical chemistry from the standpoint of Avogadro's rule and thermodynamics).

1894Chair of Physical Chemistry, University of Gottingen (Universität Göttingen), Göttingen (Germany).

1905 – 1933Professor of Chemistry, Second Chemical Institute (1905); Professor of Physics (1913); and Director, Institute for Experimental Physics (1942-1933), University of Berlin (Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin), Berlin (Germany).

1906Developed Third Law of Thermodynamics.

1918Developed atom chain reaction theory.

1920Awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry "in recognition of his work in thermochemistry".

November 18, 1941Death, Berlin (Germany).

Occupation

Thermochemist.

Places

Birth

Wąbrzeźno (Poland)

Graduate Education

Wurzburg (Germany)

Employment

Göttingen (Germany)

Berlin (Germany)

Göttingen (Germany)

Death

Berlin (Germany)

Subjects

Electrochemistry.

Photochemistry.

Physical chemistry.

Thermochemistry.

Thermodynamics.

Relationships

People

Family

Lohmeyer, Emma

Wife, married 1892.

Nernst, Gustav

Father.

Advisors & Collaborators

Abel, Emil

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Bauer, Edmond

Research assistant under Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Bonhoeffer, Karl Friedrich

Advised by Nernst at University of Berlin.

Chelpin, Hans von Euler

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Dolezalek, Friedrich

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Eucken, Arnold

Avised by Nernst at University of Berlin.

Hendrixson, Walter S.

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Hildebrand, Joel Henry, 1881-1983

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Hudson, Claude Silbert

Research assistant under Nernst at University of Berlin.

Jellett, John Hewitt, 1817-1888

Collaborated on book "Chemisch-optische untersuchungen."

Katayama, Masao

Advised by Nernst at University of Berlin.

Kohlrausch, Friedrich, 1840-1910

Graduate advisor at University of Wurzburg.

Koref, Fritz

Advised by Nernst at University of Berlin.

Lewis, Gilbert Newton, 1875-1946

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Lindemann, Frederick Alexander

Advised by Nernst at University of Berlin

Loven, John Martin

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Milner, Samuel Roslington

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Orthmann, W.

Collaborated on book "Einführung in die mathematische behandlung der naturwissenschaften : kurzgefasstes Lehrbuch der Differential- und Integralrechnung, mit besonderer Berucksichtigung der Chemie."

Ostwald, Wilhelm

Advisor at Leipzig University.

Partington, James R.

Advised by Nernst at Institute of Physical Chemistry, Berlin.

Philip, James Charles

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Richards, Theodore W. (Theodore William), 1868-1928

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Rolla, Luigi V. M.

Advised by Nernst at University of Berlin.

Russell, Alexander Stuart

Advised by Nernst at University of Berlin.

Saha, Meghnad, 1893-1956

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Schlesinger, Hermann Irving

Advised by Nernst at University of Berlin.

Schoenflies, Arthur, 1853-1928

Collaborated on book "Einführung in die mathematische behandlung der naturwissenschaften : kurzgefasstes Lehrbuch der Differential- und Integralrechnung, mit besonderer Berucksichtigung der Chemie."

Schumacher, Hans Joachim

Advised by Nernst at Institute of Physical Chemistry, Berlin.

Simon, Francis, Sir

Advised by Nernst at University of Berlin.

Sordelli, Alfredo

Advised by Nernst at University of Berlin.

ToĦoczko, Stanislaw

Advised by Nernst at University of Gottingen.

Additional

Arrhenius, Svante, 1859-1927

Atkinson, Robert d'Escourt, 1898-1982

Buchwald, Diana Kormos, 1956-

Cannizzaro, Stanislao

Casimir, H. B. G. (Hendrik Brugt Gerhard), 1909-2000

Cassel, Hans M.

Chadwick, James, 1891-1974

Cherwell, Frederick Alexander Lindemann, Viscount, 1886-1957

Debye, Peter J. W. (Peter Josef William), 1884-1966

Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955

Epstein, Paul S. (Paul Sophus), 1883-1966

Fajans, Kasimir, 1887-1975

Fischer, Emil

Franck, James, 1882-1964

Gerlach, Walther, 1889-1979

Hevesy, Georg von, 1885-1966

Hilbert, David

Hoyt, Frank Clark, 1898-

Kistiakowsky, George B. (George Bogdan), 1900-1982

Korn, Elizabeth P.

Laue, Max von, 1879-1960

Meissner, Walther, 1882-1974

Meitner, Lise, 1878-1968

Peierls, Rudolf E. (Rudolf Ernst), 1907-1995

Perrin, Jean, 1870-1942

Planck, Max, 1858-1947

Pohl, Robert Wichard, 1884-1976

Polanyi, Michael, 1891-1976

Richardson, O. W. (Owen Willans), 1879-1959

Schrödinger, Annemarie, 1896-1965

Sponer, Hertha, 1895-1968

Stern, Otto, 1888-1969

Tizard, Henry Thomas, Sir,

Van't Hoff, J. H. van't (Jacobus Henricus van't),

Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963

Waly, Adnan

Webb, Harold Worthington, 1884-1974

Weizsacker, Carl Friedrich, Freiherr von, 1912-2007

Institutions

Major Positions

Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin

Professor of Chemistry, Second Chemical Institute; Professor of Physics; and Director, Physical Chemistry Institute (Physikalisch-Chemisches Institut).

Universität Göttingen

Chair of Physical Chemistry.

Universität Leipzig (1409-1953)

Post Doctoral Researcher.

Professional Activities & Affiliations

Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-Universitat Wurzburg

Obtained Doctorate (1887).

Universität Graz

Undergraduate studies.

Universitat Zurich

Undergraduate studies.

Resources

Archival Resources

Author

Walther Nernst correspondence with Albert Einstein, 1914-1932.

Department of Manuscripts and Archives

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Jerusalem

Walther Nernst letters to Lord Cherwell, 1910-1941

Library

Nuffield College, Oxford

New Road, Oxford OX1 1NF

Walther Nernst letters.

Deutsches Museum

Museumsinsel 1, 80306 Munich, Germany

Walther Nernst scientific notes, 1909.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Subject

David Hilbert papers.

Abteilung für Handschriften und seltene Drucke

Niedersächsische Staats-und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen

Papendiek 14, D-37073 Göttingen

Elizabeth P. Korn sketches, 1928-1940s.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Emil Fischer papers, 1876-1919.

The Bancroft Library

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA, 94720-6000, USA

Frederick Lindemann Cherwell papers and correspondence, circa 1899-1957.

Library

Nuffield College, Oxford

New Road, Oxford OX1 1NF

Hans M. Cassel anecdotes regarding Albert Einstein and Walther Nernst, 1972.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Harold W. Webb autobiography, circa 1962.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Herbert Levy papers, 1909-1941.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Kaimir Fajans papers, 1912-1975.

Bentley Historical Library

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2113, USA

O.W. Richardson papers, 1897-1959 (bulk 1920-1940).

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

University of Texas at Austin

P.O Drawer 7219, Austin, TX 78713-7219, USA

Oral history interview with Adnan Waly, 1994 February-March.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Annamarie Bertel Schrödinger, 1963 April 5.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Carl Friedrich Weizsacker, 1978 April 18.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Edmond H. Bauer, 1963 January 8 and 14.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Frank Clark Hoyt, 1964 April 28.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Georg von Hevesy, 1962 May 25 and 4 February 1963.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Hendrik Burgt Gerhard Casimir, 1963 July 5 and 6.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with James Chadwick, 1969 April 15, 16 17 and 20.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Joel Henry Hildebrand, 1962 August 6.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Lise Meitner, 1963 May 12.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Michael Polyani, 1962 February 15.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Otto Stern, 1962 May 29 and 1963 May 30.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Paul Sophus Epstein, 1962 May 25, 26 and June 2.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Peter J. W. Debye, 1962 May 3 and 4.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Robert d'Escourt Atkinson, 1977 April 22.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Robert Wichard Pohl, 1963 June 25.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Sir Rudolf Ernst Peierls, 1963 June 17 and 18.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Theodore Von Karman, 1962 June 29.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Walther Gerlach, 1963 February 18 and 23.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Walther Meissner, 1963 February 8.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history joint interview with James Franck and Hertha Sponer-Franck, 1962 July 8 to 14.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Peter J. W. Debye papers, 1901-1906 and 1918-1945.

Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften

Boltzmannstr. 14, 14195 Berlin, Germany

Stanislao Cannizzaro papers, 1849-1911.

Accademia nazionale delle scienze detta dei XL

Accademia nazionale delle scienze detta dei XL

Palazzo della Civilta del Lavoro, Quadrato della Concordia, 00144 Rome

V. A. Kistiakovskii papers, 1886-1950.

St. Petersburg Branch. Archive

Russian Academy of Sciences

Universitetskaia hab., 1, Korp. 2, St. Petersburg 199034

Published Resources

Author

Chemisch-optische untersuchungen / von J.H. Jellett. Übers von L. Frank ; hrg. von W. Nernst ; mit 6 figuren im text.

Das Weltgebäude im Lichte der Neueren Forschung / von W. Nernst.

Die theoretischen und experimentellen Grundlagen des neuen Wärmesatzes/ von W. Nernst.

Einführung in die mathematische behandlung der naturwissenschaften : kurzgefasstes Lehrbuch der Differential- und Integralrechnung, mit besonderer Berucksichtigung der Chemie / von W. Nernst, A. Schonflies.

Experimental and theoretical applications of thermodynamics to chemistry / by Dr. Walther Nernst.

The new heat theorem : its foundations in theory and experiment / by W. Nernst ; translated from the second German ed. by Guy Barr.

Theoretical chemistry from the standpoint of Avogadro's rule & thermodynamics / by Prof. Walter Nernst ... rev. in accordance with the 6th German ed., by H.T. Tizard …

Theoretische chemie vom standpunkte der Avogadroschen regel und der thermodynamik / Von d' Walther Nernst.

Vorträge über die kinetische theorie der materie und der elektrizität, gehalten in Göttingen auf einladung der Kommission der Wolfskehlstiftung, von M. Planck. P. Debye, W. Nernst, M. v. Smoluchowski, A. Sommerfeld und H.A. Lorentz, mit beiträgen von H. Kamerlingh-Onnes und W.H. Keesom, einem vorwort von D. Hilbert und 7 in der text gedruckten figuren.

Subject

Encyclopedia Britannica: Walther Nernst, German Chemist.

The world of Walther Nernst; the rise and fall of German science, 1864-1941 [by] K. Mendelssohn.

Walther Nernst and the transition to modern physical science / Diana Kormos Buchwald

Walther Nernst Nobel Prize biography.

Walther Nernst, 1864-1941 memorial website.