Max Volmer

About Max Volmer

Who is it?: Chemist
Birth Day: May 03, 1885
Birth Place: Hilden, German
Died On: 3 June 1965 (1965-06-04) (aged 80)\nPotsdam
Birth Sign: Gemini
Awards: Hervorragender Wissenschaftler des Volkes
Fields: physical chemist

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Max Volmer was bornon May 03, 1885 in Hilden, German, is Chemist. Max Volmer was a German scientist who specialised in the field of physical chemistry and is credited for laying the foundations for phenomenological kinetic electrochemistry with his work on the Butler-Volmer equation. He studied at the Phillips University of Marburg and subsequently went on to study at the University of Leipzig, from where he was awarded his doctorate. He taught at the University of Leipzig and within two years of taking up the teaching position he became a Privatdozent. He was involved in military-related research at the Physical Chemistry Institute at the Friedrich-Wilhelms University and also worked in the research wing of an well-known German industrial firm named Auergesellschaft. Subsequently, he built the mercury steam ejector in collaboration with Otto Stern and co-authored a paper with him which resulted in the attribution of the Stern–Volmer equation and constant. He taught at some of the best known educational institutions in Germany, including the University of Hamburg and the Technische Hochshule Berlin. From 1945 to 1955, he spent his time as a researcher in Russia and helped the country with plenty of research programmes and subsequently he was honoured by the Russians with an award. He taught at the Humboldt University of Berlin after coming back to East Germany.
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From 1905 to 1908, Volmer studied chemistry at the Philipps University of Marburg. After that, he went to the University of Leipzig, where he was awarded a doctorate in 1910, based on his work on photochemical reactions in high vacuums. He became an assistant lecturer at Leipzig in 1912, and after completion of his Habilitation there in 1913, he became a Privatdozent at the University.


In 1916, Volmer went to work on military-related research at the Physical Chemistry Institute of the Friedrich-Wilhelms University (today the Humboldt University of Berlin). From 1918 to 1920, he conducted research in industry at the Auergesellschaft in Berlin. In 1919, he invented the mercury steam ejector, and he published a paper, with Otto Stern which resulted in the attribution of the Stern–Volmer equation and constant. Also attributed from his work during this time is the Volmer isotherm.


Volmer married the physical Chemist Lotte Pusch. Max and Lotte knew and socialized with the Physicist Lise Meitner and the Chemist Otto Hahn since the 1920s.


Volmer, Manfred von Ardenne, Director of his private laboratory Forschungslaboratoriums für Elektronenphysik, Gustav Hertz, Nobel Laureate and Director of Research Laboratory II at Siemens, and Peter Adolf Thiessen, ordinarius professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin and Director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut für physikalische Chemie und Elektrochemie (KWIPC) in Berlin-Dahlem, had made a pact. The pact was a pledge that whoever first made contact with the Russians would speak for the rest. The objectives of their pact were threefold: (1) Prevent plunder of their institutes, (2) Continue their work with minimal interruption, and (3) Protect themselves from prosecution for any political acts of the past. Before the end of World War II, Thiessen, a member of the Nazi Party, had Communist contacts. On 27 April 1945, Thiessen arrived at von Ardenne’s institute in an armored vehicle with a major of the Soviet Army, who was also a leading Soviet Chemist. All four of the pact members were taken to the Soviet Union. Hertz was made head of Institute G, in Agudseri (Agudzery), about 10 km southeast of Sukhumi and a suburb of Gul’rips (Gulrip’shi); Volmer was initially assigned to Hertz’s institute. Topics assigned to Gustav Hertz’s Institute G included: (1) Separation of isotopes by diffusion in a flow of inert gases, for which Gustav Hertz was the leader, (2) Development of a condensation pump, for which Justus Mühlenpfordt was the leader, (3) Design and build a mass spectrometer for determining the isotopic composition of uranium, for which Werner Schütze was the leader, (4) Development of frameless (ceramic) diffusion partitions for filters, for which Reinhold Reichmann was the leader, and (5) Development of a theory of stability and control of a diffusion cascade, for which Heinz Barwich was the leader; Barwich had been deputy to Hertz at Siemens. Von Ardenne was made head of Institute A, in Sinop, a suburb of Sukhumi.


Late in January 1946, Volmer was assigned to the Nauchno-Issledovatel’skij Institut-9 (NII-9, Scientific Research Institute No. 9), in Moscow. Volmer was given a design bureau to work on the production of heavy water; Robert Döpel also worked at NII-9. Volmer’s group with Victor Bayerl, a physical Chemist and Gustav Richter a Physicist, was under Alexander Mikailovich Rosen, and they designed a heavy water production process and facility based on the counterflow of ammonia. The installation was constructed at Norilsk and completed in 1948, after which Volmer’s organization was transferred to Zinaida Yershova’s group, which worked on plutonium extraction from fission products.


In March 1955, Volmer returned to East Germany. He received the Soviet Union’s national prize, first class, Hervorragender Wissenschaftler des Volkes (Outstanding Scientist of the People). On 1 May 1955, he became an ordinarius professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin. On 10 November 1955, became a member of the Wissenschaftlichen Rates für die friedliche Anwendung der Atomenergie of the Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). From 8 December 1955 to 1959, he became President of the German Academy of Sciences, after which he was vice-president until 1961. From 27 August 1957, he became an initial member of the Forschungsrat of the GDR.


At the Technical University of Berlin, where Volmer worked for so many years, the Max Volmer Laboratory for Biophysical Chemistry was named in his honor. Also in Volmer’s honor, a street was named Volmerstrasse in Berlin-Adlershof, Potsdam, and Hilden.