Max Planck

Wartime Physics

It was a horrible year for Planck, but through his grief he remained optimistic that things would soon look up, both for him and for Germany. It was a desperately needed optimism, as Planck's beloved country–and the scientific community within–was in dire straits.

Germany had been humiliated by the terms of surrender set out in the Treaty of Versailles, and the new Weimar government was weak and ineffective. The economy was spiraling into disaster, and, most troubling to Planck, German science seemed on the verge of losing its supreme role in the international physics community. German scientists were as brilliant as ever, but they found that the world, which used to welcome their papers, their lectures, and their attendance at conferences, was now giving them a cold shoulder. As the unofficial but widely acknowledged spokesman for German science, Planck felt it was up to him to help the German scientists push their way back into the world's favor and regain their former position. It would be an uphill battle.