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Nominated 84 Times For Nobel Prize But Never Won

arnold sommerfeld genius facts

If there was anybody close to Einstein's genius, it was his compatriot Arnold Sommerfeld. And despite being 10 years Einstein's senior, Sommerfeld was more supportive of the new quantum theory and made many pioneering contributions to it.

Also, did you know that Sommerfeld served in the military for 9 years before becoming a full-time physics professor? Like that, following are 10 amazing facts from Arnold Sommerfeld's life as a tribute to the most under-appreciated physics brain of the 20th century.


1. Since childhood, Arnold Sommerfeld was a quick learner. He received his PhD in physics when he was only 22 years old.

2. He was among the first to acknowledge the validity of Einstein's relativity. His support helped it propel into more of an "accepted status" in the scientific community.

3. Sommerfeld received 84 nominations across 25 years for Nobel Prize in physics (more than any other physicist) but surprisingly, he never won.

4. Yet, he won many times through those he educated and inspired, including (but not limited to) Heisenberg, Pauli, Debye and Bethe.

5. He was the one who introduced the second and the third quantum numbers. They're important because of their use in determining the electron configuration inside an atom.

6. Einstein once told Sommerfeld: "What I especially admire about you is that you have pounded out of the soil such a large number of young talents."

7. Sommerfeld encouraged collaboration from his students. He would home tutor them or meet at a local café to discuss their doubts after a lecture. His successful teaching career was 32 years long.

8. Sommerfeld was also a traveler who traveled around the world in two years (1928-1929) with major stops in India, China, Japan and the US.

9. He wrote to Einstein shortly after Hitler took to power: "I can assure you that the misuse of the word ‘national’ by our rulers has thoroughly broken me of the habit of national feelings that was so pronounced in my case."

10. Sommerfeld died in 1951 in Munich after getting hit by a truck while he was walking with his grandchildren. He was 82 years old. In 2004, department of theoretical physics at the University of Munich was named after Sommerfeld.

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