Karl Ferdinand Braun
Most people might never have heard of Karl Ferdinand Braun, even though one of his inventions has significantly changed our lives. Named after him, the Braun Tube and its technology became the basis for tube television, which has been a part of our culture ever since.
On June 6, 1850, Karl Ferdinand Braun was born the son of a civil servant in Fulda. In his youth, between 1864 and 1866, Braun already wrote several substantial scientific papers, on water and on crystals, among other subjects.
From 1868 onwards, he studied Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics at the University of Marburg. One year later, he moved to the University of Berlin and became the assistant of Heinrich Gustav Magnus, until Magnus died in 1870. Braun continued his education with Professor Quincke, completing his doctoral dissertation on string oscillation in 1872. From 1872 to 1874, he worked as Quincke's assistant at the University of Würzburg, while taking his State Examination as a secondary school teacher at Marburg in 1873. From 1874 to 1876, he then taught at Thomas-Gymnasium in Leipzig. In 1877, he accepted a position as an Associate Professor of Theoretical Physics at Marburg, until he was appointed to the University of Strasbourg in 1880. From 1883 to 1885, he held a professorship at Karlsruhe, then was called to Tübingen, where he worked continuously up until 1895.
In 1909, Karl Ferdinand Braun was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, together with the Italian Guglielmo Marconi, "in recognition of their contribution to the development of wireless telegraphy."
From 1895 to 1918, Braun was once again a Professor at the University of Strasbourg.
Before the end of World War I, Karl Ferdinand Braun died on April 20, 1918, in the United States, in Brooklyn, New York.
A hundred years ago, Karl Ferdinand Braun was one of the few professors to work on the scientific and technological development of another's discovery. In 1896, Heinrich Hertz had succeeded in generating electric waves. However, he never considered any application for the purpose of transmitting messages. This was achieved by a young Italian, Guglielmo Marconi. Inspired by his successes, Braun began to investigate the subject scientifically. He improved the system of calibrating and synchronizing the frequencies of transmitter and receiver, thus establishing the basics of modern-day directional radio and the so-called long-distance telegraphy.
Working and living in Würzburg
Chancellor Bismarck's policies and the appointment policy of the University of Würzburg determined Braun's life and career. Germany had defeated France in the War of 1870/1871 and now reclaimed Strasbourg, which had been annexed by Lewis XIV of France in 1681. The French Academy there was then dissolved, to be replaced by the newly-founded German Imperial University. Würzburg physicist August Kundt accepted a professorship at Strasbourg, and Würzburg appointed Quincke his successor, his contract giving him the right to take on an assistant of his own choice. This assistant was Karl Ferdinand Braun, who investigated the conductivity of molten salts during his time at Würzburg.