Felix Bloch

This page addresses only the Swiss physicist, for the man accused of espionage see Felix Bloch (diplomatic officer)

Felix Bloch (October 23, 1905September 10, 1983) was a Swiss - American Jewish physicist, working mainly in the U.S..

Life and work

Bloch was born in Zürich, Switzerland to Jewish parents Gustav and Agnes Bloch. He was educated there and at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, also in Zürich. Initially studying engineering he soon changed to physics. During this time he attended lectures and seminars given by Peter Debye and Hermann Weyl at ETH Zürich and Erwin Schroedinger at the neighboring University of Zürich. A fellow student in these seminars was John von Neumann. Graduating in 1927 he continued his physics studies at the University of Leipzig with Werner Heisenberg, gaining his doctorate in 1928. He remained in European academia, studying with Wolfgang Pauli in Zürich, Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and Enrico Fermi in Rome before he went back to Leipzig assuming a position as privatdozent (lecturer). In 1933, immediately after Hitler came to power, he left Germany, emigrating to work at Stanford University in 1934, where he became the first professor for theoretical physics. In 1939, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. During WW II he worked on atomic energy at Los Alamos National Laboratory, before resigning to join the radar project at Harvard University.

After the war he concentrated on investigations into nuclear induction and nuclear magnetic resonance, which are the underlying principles of MRI. In 1946 he proposed the Bloch equations which determine the time evolution of nuclear magnetization. He and Edward Mills Purcell were awarded the 1952 Nobel Prize for "their development of new ways and methods for nuclear magnetic precision measurements." In 1954–1955, he served for one year as the first Director-General of CERN. In 1961, he was made Max Stein Professor of Physics at Stanford University.


  • Physics Today 1984, 37(3), pp. 115-116.
  • Nature 1952, 170, pp. 911-912.
  • Nature 1954, 174, pp. 774-775.
  • McGraw-Hill Modern Men of Science, McGraw-Hill, 1966, vol. 1, pp. 45-46.
  • National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, James T. White & Co., 1921-1984, vol. I, pp. 310-312.


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