Marian Smoluchowski

Marian Smoluchowski

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Marian Smoluchowski (ˈmarjan smɔluˈxɔfski; 28 May 1872 - 5 September 1917) was an ethnic Polish
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 scientist in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was a pioneer of statistical physics
Statistical physics
Statistical physics is the branch of physics that uses methods of probability theory and statistics, and particularly the mathematical tools for dealing with large populations and approximations, in solving physical problems. It can describe a wide variety of fields with an inherently stochastic...

 and an avid mountaineer
-Sports:*Mountaineering, the sport, hobby or profession of walking, hiking, trekking and climbing up mountains, also known as alpinism-University athletic teams and mascots:*Appalachian State Mountaineers, the athletic teams of Appalachian State University...



Born into an upper class family in Vorder-Brühl
Mödling is the capital of the Austrian district of the same name located approximately 14 km south of Vienna.The settlement dates back to the Neolithic. In medieval times, the town was the residence of a branch of the Babenberger family, as a result of which it received the nickname...

, near Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, Smoluchowski studied physics at the University of Vienna
University of Vienna
The University of Vienna is a public university located in Vienna, Austria. It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is the oldest university in the German-speaking world...

. His teachers included Franz S. Exner
Franz S. Exner
Franz Serafin Exner was an Austrian physicist.-Life:Exner comes from one of the most important university families of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. The same Exner family includes Adolf Exner, Karl Exner, Sigmund Exner, and Marie von Frisch. Exner the youngest of five children of parents Franz...

 and Joseph Stefan
Joseph Stefan
Joseph Stefan was a physicist, mathematician, and poet of Slovene mother tongue and Austrian citizenship.- Life and work :...

. Ludwig Boltzmann
Ludwig Boltzmann
Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann was an Austrian physicist famous for his founding contributions in the fields of statistical mechanics and statistical thermodynamics...

 held a position at Munich University during Smoluchowski's studies in Vienna and returned in 1894, when Smoluchowski was serving in the Austrian army. They apparently had no direct contact, although Smoluchowski's work follows in the tradition of Boltzmann's ideas. After several years at other universities (Paris, Glasgow, and Berlin), he moved to Lviv
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

 in 1899, where he took a position at the University of Lviv.

Smoluchowski moved to Krakow in 1913, to take over the chair in Experimental Physics Department after August Witkowski
August Witkowski
August Wiktor Witkowski was a Jewish Polish physicist, rector of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow .Member of the Academy of Learning. He is credited with founding the first modern physics department in Poland....

, who had long envisioned Smoluchowski as his successor. When World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 began the following year, the work conditions became unusually difficult, as the spacious and modern Physics Department building, built by Witkowski a short time before, was turned into a military hospital. The possibility of working in that building had been one of the reasons Smoluchowski decided to move to Krakow. Smoluchowski was now forced to work in the apartment of the late Professor Karol Olszewski
Karol Olszewski
Karol Stanisław Olszewski was a Polish chemist, mathematician and physicist.-Life:Olszewski was a graduate of Kazimierz Brodziński High School in Tarnów . He studied at Kraków's Jagiellonian University in the departments of mathematics and physics, and chemistry and biology...

. During his experimental physics lectures, using even the simplest demonstration equipment was virtually impossible.

Smoluchowski lectured in experimental physics, and his students included Jozef Patkowski, Stanislaw Loria and Waclaw Dziewulski. His non-professional interests included skiing, mountain climbing in the Alps and Tatra Mountains, watercolour painting, and playing the piano.

Marian Smoluchowski died in Krakau in 1917, the victim of a dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

 epidemic. Professor Wladyslaw Natanson
Wladyslaw Natanson
Władysław Natanson was a Polish physicist.He was head of Theoretical Physics at Jagiellonian University from 1899–1935. He published a series of papers on the problems of thermodynamically irreversible processes, gaining him recognition in the rapidly-growing field...

 wrote in Smoluchowski's obituary: "With great pleasure I would revive the charm of his life, knightly softness of his heart, combined with exquisite kindness. I wish I could reconstruct the odd appeal of his personality, recall how restrained he was, modest, and beautifully timid, yet always full of pure, almost unintentional joy."

Smoluchowski was a member of the Copernicus Society of Natural Scientists and the Polish Academy of Sciences and Letters. In 1901 he had married Zofia Baraniecka, who survived him. They had two children, Aldona Smoluchowski (1902-1984) and Roman Smoluchowski (1910-1996).


Smoluchowski scientific output included fundamental work on the kinetic theory
Kinetic theory
The kinetic theory of gases describes a gas as a large number of small particles , all of which are in constant, random motion. The rapidly moving particles constantly collide with each other and with the walls of the container...

 of matter. In 1904 he was the first who noted the existence of density fluctuations in the gas phase and in 1908 he became the first physicist to ascribe the phenomenon of critical opalescence
Critical opalescence
Critical opalescence is a phenomenon which arises in the region of a continuous, or second-order, phase transition. Originally reported by Thomas Andrews in 1869 for the liquid-gas transition in carbon dioxide, many other examples have been discovered since. The phenomenon is most commonly...

 to large density fluctuations. His investigations also concerned the blue colour of the sky
Rayleigh scattering
Rayleigh scattering, named after the British physicist Lord Rayleigh, is the elastic scattering of light or other electromagnetic radiation by particles much smaller than the wavelength of the light. The particles may be individual atoms or molecules. It can occur when light travels through...

 as a consequence of light dispersion on fluctuations in the atmosphere, as well as explanation of Brownian motion of particles. At that time Smoluchowski proposed formulae which presently carry his name.

In 1906, independently of Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

, he described Brownian motion
Brownian motion
Brownian motion or pedesis is the presumably random drifting of particles suspended in a fluid or the mathematical model used to describe such random movements, which is often called a particle theory.The mathematical model of Brownian motion has several real-world applications...

Smoluchowski presented an equation which became an important basis of the theory of stochastic process
Stochastic process
In probability theory, a stochastic process , or sometimes random process, is the counterpart to a deterministic process...


See also

  • Einstein-Smoluchowski relation
    Einstein relation (kinetic theory)
    In physics the Einstein relation is a previously unexpected connection revealed independently by Albert Einstein in 1905 and by Marian Smoluchowski in their papers on Brownian motion...

  • Smoluchowski equation
    Smoluchowski equation
    In physics, the diffusion equation with drift term is often called Smoluchowski equation .- The equation :Let w be a density, D a diffusion constant, ζ a friction coefficient,...

  • Smoluchowski coagulation equation
    Smoluchowski Coagulation Equation
    The Smoluchowski coagulation equation is an integrodifferential equation introduced by Marian Smoluchowski in a seminal 1916 publication , describing the evolution of the number density of particles of size x at a time t...


  • A. Teske, Marian Smoluchowski, Leben und Werk. Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, 1977.
  • A. Einstein and M. Smoluchowski: "Brownsche Bewegung. Untersuchungen über die Theorie der Brownschen Bewegung. Abhandlung über die Brownsche Bewegung und verwandte Erscheinungen", Harri Deutsch, 1997.
  • S. Chandrasekhar, M. Kac, R. Smoluchowski, "Marian Smoluchowski - his life and scientific work", ed. by R.S. Ingarden, PWN, Warszawa 1999.
  • E. Seneta (2001) Marian Smoluchowski, Statisticians of the Centuries (ed. C. C. Heyde and E. Seneta) pp. 299-302. New York: Springer.
  • S. Ulam (1957) Marian Smoluchowski and the Theory of Probabilities in Physics, American Journal of Physics, 25, 475-481.
  • Abraham Pais, Subtle is the Lord, chapter 5, section 5e. Einstein and Smoluchowski; Critical Opalescence, (pp. 100-103), Oxford University Press, (1982) 2005, ISBN 0-19-280672-6.

External links