Johannes Stark

Johannes Stark : Nazi Germany

Johannes Stark was born in Schickenhof, Germany, on 15th April, 1874. He was educated at the local grammar school in Bayruth before attending the University of Munich to study physics, mathematics and chemistry.

After graduating in 1897 Stark worked at the Physics Institute in Munich until becoming a lecturer of physics at the University of Gottingen (1900-1906) and professor of physics at the Technische Hochschule in Hannover (1906-1909).

Stark correspondence with Albert Einstein and this resulted in him exploring what became known as the light quanta hypothesis. In 1913 Stark modified the photo-equivalence law that had been proposed by Einstein seven years earlier.

In 1919 Stark discovered the splitting of spectral lines in a electric field and six years later won the Nobel Prize for Physics as a result of his work on electro-magnetism.

In 1922 Stark published The Present Crisis in German Physics (1922). The book contained a scathing attack on Einstein's theory of relativity. He also criticized Nils Bohr and his quantum theory.

Stark's controversial views isolated him from the scientific community in Germany and in 1922 he resigned as professor of physics at the University of Wurzberg and started a porcelain factory.

The business venture was unsuccessful and Stark began to develop nationalistic right-wing political views. In 1924 Stark, began making speeches supporting Adolf Hitler. Stark shared Hitler's racist views and attacked the work of Jewish scientists in Germany, claiming that they were unconcerned with "scientific objectivity".

Stark joined the Nazi Party in 1930 and over the next few years he joined with another German physicist, Phillipp Lenard, to integrate physics with fascism. After Hitler came to power in 1933 Stark was appointed president of the Reich Physical-Technical Institute and head of the German Research Association.

In his book, Nationalsocialismus und Wissenschaft (1934) Stark argued that the scientist's first duty was to the nation. He denounced theoretical physics and stressed the need for research to be carried out that would help industry and arms production. Stark also argued that leading scientific positions in Nazi Germany should only he held by ethnic Germans.

Stark was particularly critical of Jewish scientists such as Albert Einstein. When Werner Heisenberg defended Einstein and his theory of relativity Stark wrote an article in the Nazi journal Das Schwarze Korps, where he described Heisenberg as a "White Jew".

After the Second World War Stark was arrested and sentenced to four years' imprisonment by a denazification court in 1947. Johannes Stark died on 21st June, 1957.