The main building of the Friedrich Wilhelms University in Berlin, on the thoroughfare Unter den Linden. The Institute for Theoretical Physics was situated on the ground floor of the left (west) wing.
  In October 1887 Gustav Robert Kirchhoff died. He had occupied the first and hitherto only chair in theoretical physics in Germany since 1875. The University of Berlin not only exercised a leadership role in contemporary theoretical physics but also served as the center of physics and scientific research in Germany. It was there that Hermann von Helmholtz, the "Reichs Chancellor of Science" was active. Only a physicist of the first rank could come into consideration as a successor to Kirchhoff and a colleague of Helmholtz. Attempts to win over Ludwig Boltzmann or Heinrich Hertz-the most reputable or promising theoretical physicists of the time-failed, however. Thus the way was cleared for Max Planck.

Helmholtz's high regard for the originality of his former student's papers on thermodynamics were pivotal in his nomination of Planck. No less so was his ability to convey this professional opinion to the omnipotent Friedrich Althoff at the Prussian Ministry of Culture. Max Planck assumed his office in the winter semester of 1888/89-initially, as in Kiel, as associate professor, but including the directorship of the Institute for Theoretical Physics. 1892 he advanced to a full professorship (Ordinarius).

<- back | later ->

  "I've been here in Berlin at the university since 1889 ... so really quite an oldtimer. But actually, there aren't any genuine old Berliners, ones who were born here; in academia everyone moves around a lot. One goes from one university to the next, and in that respect I am actually very sedentary. But having once landed in Berlin, it's not so easy to move away; for in the end, this is the center of all intellectual activity in the whole of Germany."
Max Planck, 1942