Academic studies

   

  Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) delivering his last lecture in the summer of 1894.
  Max Planck matriculated at the University of Munich for the winter semester of 1874/75 in the subjects of mathematics and physics. Philipp von Jolly and Wilhelm Beetz became his academic teachers of physics and Gustav Bauer and Ludwig Seidel instructed him in mathematics. All four were good, although not outstanding scholars. As lecturers, however, they knew how to convey their enthusiasm for the subject to their students, along with the basic tools of their science. Max Planck noticed their merely local importance in the field latest when he transferred to Berlin in 1877 to complete his studies. There he attended lectures by Hermann von Helmholtz and Gustav Kirchhoff, both of whom were leading physicists of the second half of the 19th century.

Berlin expanded the scientific horizons of the young student considerably. His college notebooks are neatly written, revealing that he carefully revised his lecture notes. They also show how he familiarized himself with the current state of research in physics by directed study of the literature. Rudolf Clausius's articles on thermodynamics particularly sparked his interest. They introduced him to what would take a prominent place in his later scientific work: the central role of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and entropy in physics.

In the summer of 1879 he defended his dissertation `On the Second Law of the Mechanical Theory of Heat' in Munich. He was thereupon conferred his doctorate of philosophy with the highest credential "summa cum laude''.

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  "I did not have the good fortune of a prominent scientist or teacher directing the specific course of my education."
Max Planck, 1894


The Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, about 1850.