Unraveling the Mysteries: Otto Stern and the Path of Particle Physics

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Otto Stern (17 February 1888 – 17 August 1969) was a German American physicist, who made significant contributions to the development of atomic and molecular physics, particularly in the field of magnetic resonance. He is perhaps best known for his work with Walther Gerlach in 1922, which led to the discovery of electron spin.

Life and Career

He was born on 17 February 1888, in Zory, Poland. He earned his doctorate in physics from the University of Breslau in 1912. He then worked as an assistant to Max Planck at the University of Berlin, where he began his research on the properties of atoms and molecules.

In 1921, Stern and his collaborator Walther Gerlach conducted an experiment in which a beam of silver atoms was passed through a non-uniform magnetic field. They observed that the beam split into two distinct paths, indicating that the atoms possessed an intrinsic magnetic moment. This experiment provided the first direct evidence of electron spin, a fundamental property of atoms. Stern was also involved in the development of the Stern-Gerlach experiment, which demonstrated the quantization of atomic magnetic moments.

In addition, he made important contributions to the study of molecular beams and their interactions with surfaces, and he developed methods for measuring the magnetic moments of molecules. During World War II, he emigrated to the United States and worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb. After the war, he joined the faculty of the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, where he continued his research on atomic and molecular physics. He remained there until his retirement in 1945. He died on 17 August 1969, in Berkeley, California, United States.

Award and Legacy

Stern was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1943, together with Gustav Hertz, for their work on the resonance method for discovering the magnetic moments of atomic nuclei. He also received numerous other honors and awards for his contributions to physics.

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