See biography by K. A. G. Mendelssohn (1973).
(born June 25, 1864, Briesen, Prussia—died Nov. 18, 1941, Muskau, Ger.) German scientist, one of the founders of modern physical chemistry. He taught at the Universities of Göttingen and Berlin until forced to retire in 1933 by the Nazi regime. Nernst's researches on the theory of electric cells (see battery), the thermodynamics of chemical equilibrium, the properties of vapours at high temperatures and of solids at low temperatures, and the mechanism of photochemistry have had important applications. His formulation of the third law of thermodynamics gained him a 1920 Nobel Prize. He also invented an improved electric light and an electronically amplified piano.
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Walther Hermann Nernst (June 25, 1864 – November 18, 1941) was a German physicist who is known for his theories behind the calculation of chemical affinity as embodied in the third law of thermodynamics, for which he won the 1920 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Nernst helped establish the modern field of physical chemistry and contributed to electrochemistry, thermodynamics, solid state chemistry and photochemistry. He is also known for developing the Nernst equation.
In 1920, he received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in recognition of his work in thermochemistry. In 1924, he became director of the Institute of Physical Chemistry at Berlin, a position from which he retired in 1933. Nernst went on to work in electroacoustics and astrophysics.
Nernst developed an electric piano, the "Neo-Bechstein-Flügel" in 1930 in association with the Bechstein and Siemens companies, replacing the sounding board with radio amplifiers. The piano used electromagnetic pickups to produce electronically modified and amplified sound in the same way as an electric guitar.
His Nernst glower, important in the field of infra-red spectroscopy, is a solid-body radiator with a filament of rare-earth oxides. Continuous ohmic heating of the filament results in conduction. The glower operates best in wavelengths from 2 to 14 micrometers.
Nernst was a vocal critic of Adolf Hitler and Nazism, and he had two daughters who married Jews. In 1933, the rise of Nazism led to the end of Nernst's career as a scientist. Nernst died in 1941 and is buried near Max Planck in Göttingen, Germany.