History of the Institute
The roots of the Drittes Physikalisches Institut (Third Institute of Physics) stretch way back to the days of the mathematical genius Carl Friedrich Gauß. The princeps mathematicorum always had a strong inclination to the applications of his science. Inspired by this tradition, Felix Klein, after becoming faculty member in the Institute of Mathematics of the Georg-August-University, recommended the establishment of new institutes which should focus on the applications of mathematics and physics. His recommendation led to the foundation of two institutes, the Institut für Angewandte Elektrizität (Institute of Applied Electricity) and the Institut für Angewandte Mechanik (Institute of Applied Mechanics) with its long-time director, Ludwig Prandtl.
In 1947, both Institutes were merged as the Drittes Physikalisches Institut (Third Physical Institute) of today. Under its founder and first director, Prof. Dr. Dr. e.h. Erwin Meyer, the Institute was soon recognised world wide as a leading centre for education and research in acoustics as well as in the area of high frequency technology. Among the "classical" research areas of the Institute (room acoustics, architectural acoustics, psychological acoustics, propagation and absorption of electromagnetic waves), new areas were soon added. The diverse research areas may be illustrated by three exceptional examples: At the beginning of the fifties, Manfred Eigen (Institute of Physical Chemistry of the University) together with Kurtze and Tamm from the Third Physical Institute, investigated chemical reaction mechanisms in electrolytic solutions. For his succeeding work in the area of fast chemical reactions, Manfred Eigen was awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1967. Moreover, work on cavitation phenomena is carried out in the Institute since the beginning of the fifties. For his fundamental contributions in this area, Werner Lauterborn was awarded the Physics Prize of the German Physical Society in 1976. Finally, it should be mentioned that Wolfgang Eisenmenger, in collaboration with the Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, pioneered the highly interesting phonon spectroscopy in the frequency range 109 to 1012 Hz in the mid sixties.
To commemorate Erwin Meyer's 100th birthday, a memorial plaque was fixed at the house where he used to live on 3 December 1999.
In 1969 Manfred Schroeder, then Director of Acoustics, Speech and Mechanics Research at Bell Laboratories, succeeded Erwin Meyer at the helm of the Institute. Schroeder expanded the Institute`s research by speech, hearing and audiology, aided by Hans Werner Strube, Armin Kohlrausch and Birger Kollmeier. While continuing (with the able assistance of Heinrich Henze) the popular demonstration lectures pioneered by Meyer on acoustics, waves and electronics, he added optics and applications of number theory to the syllabus. He also lectured on fractals and chaos, digital signal processing and computer graphics, of which he was one of the pioneers. Several research fields were added or expanded such as molecular relaxation in liquids (Reinhard Pottel and Udo Kaatze), aero-acoustics and traffic noise (Dirk Ronneberger), deterministic chaos, high-speed holography and picture processing (Werner Lauterborn), circadian rhythms and active noise control (Dieter Guicking), room acoustics (Volker Mellert), and organic conductors (Hans Wilhelm Helberg). During his tenure Schroeder published three books (Number Theory in Science and Communication, Fractals, Chaos, Power Laws: Minutes from an Infinite Paradise and Computer Speech). He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and other academies. Schroeder was awarded the Rayleigh and Helmholtz Medals and the Gold Medal of the Acoustical Society of America ("For theoretical and practical contributions to human communication through innovative applications of mathematics to speech, hearing and concert hall acoustics").
In the year 1994, Werner Lauterborn succeeded Manfred Schroeder at the Institute. He augmented the research spectrum by introducing the areas of nonlinear dynamics, chaos research, cavitation physics and sonoluminescence (the generation of light by sound). Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, physicist from Göttingen (to keep in mind), contributed an aphorism to the understanding of chaos in his quirky sense of humour: "Had I thrown a cherry pip into the lake at Wardöhus, the drop of sea water that Myn Heer sweeps off his nose at the Cape wouldn't have sat at the same place".
About the year 2000, approximately 20 doctoral and 30 diploma students were working on their theses at various research projects. The exceptionally broad research area of the Institute lends an enormous support to the educational training of young physicists during the preparation of their diploma work or dissertation. Thereby they gain insight into other research topics distant from their own ones. New ideas and inspirations are encouraged through a weekly in-house meeting (our Hauskolloquium) in which a broad spectrum of topics is covered.
To carry out its task, the Institute hosts special instalments such as a machine shop, an electronic workshop and its own computer network which is maintained by a special computer group
The experimental lectures on
- Vibrations and Waves
- Nonlinear Physics
were conducted sequentially up to 2007. Moreover, additional lectures on selected topics, in particular biophysics, are also given where members of the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry take part. Most of the lectures, especially during Erwin Meyer's times, have been cast into book form to keep the knowledge and to transfer it to the next generation.
In July 2005, the institute moved from the house in the Bürgerstraße to the new physics building at the Friedrich-Hund-Platz. The research focus shifted to biophysics with many new working groups, and in 2007, the direction devolved upon Prof. Dr. Christoph F. Schmidt.
For more see Festschrift:
© 1998 DPI Göttingen, BRD: Last change: February 12, 2009