Born on 7 March 1900 in Breslau, Germany, Fritz Wolfgang London was a renowned physicist and pioneer in quantum chemistry. He began his university studies in philosophy, receiving a doctorate in 1921 from the University of Munich. He then went on to study theoretical physics at several universities, including those of Munich, Zürich, and Berlin, working under the likes of Arnold Sommerfeld and Erwin Schrödinger. In 1927 London made the first of several profound discoveries in the field of condensed matter when he, along with fellow physicist Walter Heitler, applied quantum mechanics to the interaction and bonding of the hydrogen molecule. Their research launched the study of quantum chemistry. Because of his Jewish background, London was forced to leave Germany in 1933 when the Nazis came to power. He went first to Oxford University in the UK, where he and his brother, Heinz, developed the first phenomenological theory of superconductivity in 1935. Then after a stint in Paris, London immigrated in 1939 to the US, where he accepted a position as professor of theoretical chemistry at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. In 1945 he became a US citizen. London received the Lorentz Medal of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences in 1953. The following year, London died from a heart ailment at age of 54. In his honor, the Fritz London Memorial Prize was created posthumously and has become one of the most important international awards in low-temperature physics. (Photo credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection)
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7 March 2017
The quantum chemistry pioneer analyzed the properties of the hydrogen molecule and proposed an early theory of superconductivity.
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