Victor Francis Hess

Victor Franz Hess (24 June 1883 – 17 December 1964) was an Austrian-American physicist, and Nobel laureate in physics, who discovered cosmic rays.[1]

Victor Franz Hess
Victor Franz Hess

24 June 1883
Died17 December 1964 (aged 81)
NationalityAustro-Hungarian, Austria, United States
Alma materUniversity of Graz
Known forDiscovery of cosmic rays
Marie Bertha Warner Breisky (m. 1920–1955)

Elizabeth M. Hoenke (m. 1955–1964)
AwardsNobel Prize in Physics (1936)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Graz
Austrian Academy of Sciences
University of Innsbruck
Fordham University


He was born to Vinzenz Hess and Serafine Edle von Grossbauer-Waldstätt, in Waldstein Castle, near Peggau in Styria, Austria on 24 June 1883. His father was a royal forester in Prince Louis of Oettingen-Wallerstein's service. He attended secondary school at Graz Gymnasium from 1893 to 1901.[2][3]

From 1901 to 1905 Hess was an undergraduate student at the University of Graz, and continued postgraduate studies in physics until he received his PhD there in 1910. He worked as Assistant under Stefan Meyer at the Institute for Radium Research, Viennese Academy of Sciences, from 1910 to 1920.

In 1920 he married Marie Bertha Warner Breisky.[1]

Hess took a leave of absence in 1921 and travelled to the United States, working at the United States Radium Corporation, in New Jersey, and as Consulting Physicist for the US Bureau of Mines, in Washington, D.C. In 1923, he returned to the University of Graz, and was appointed the Ordinary Professor of Experimental Physics in 1925. The University of Innsbruck appointed him Professor, and Director Institute of Radiology, in 1931.[2]

Hess relocated to the United States with his Jewish wife in 1938, in order to escape Nazi persecution. The same year Fordham University appointed him Professor of Physics, and he later became a naturalized United States citizen in 1944.[4][5] His wife died of cancer in 1955.[1] The same year he married Elizabeth M. Hoenke, the woman who nursed Berta at the end of her life.[4]

He was a practicing Roman Catholic,[6] and in 1946 he wrote on the topic of the relationship between science and religion in his article "My Faith", in which he explained why he believed in God.[7] He retired from Fordham University in 1958 and he died on 17 December 1964, in Mount Vernon, New York from Parkinson's disease.[1]

Cosmic rays

Hess (center) at work

Between 1911 and 1913, Hess undertook the work that won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1936. For many years, scientists had been puzzled by the levels of ionizing radiation measured in the atmosphere. The assumption at the time was that the radiation would decrease as the distance from the earth, the source of the radiation, increased. The electroscopes previously used gave an approximate measurement of the radiation, but indicated that at greater altitude in the atmosphere the level of radiation might actually be higher than that on the ground. Hess approached this mystery first by greatly increasing the precision of the measuring equipment, and then by personally taking the equipment aloft in a balloon. He systematically measured the radiation at altitudes up to 5.3 km during 1911-12. The daring flights were made both at day and during the night, at significant risk to himself.[3]

The result of Hess's meticulous work was published in the Proceedings of the Viennese Academy of Sciences, and showed the level of radiation decreased up to an altitude of about 1 km, but above that the level increased considerably, with the radiation detected at 5 km being about twice that at sea level.[8] His conclusion was that there was radiation penetrating the atmosphere from outer space, and his discovery was confirmed by Robert Andrews Millikan in 1925, who gave the radiation the name "cosmic rays". Hess's discovery opened the door to many new discoveries in particle and nuclear physics.[3] In particular, both the positron and the muon were first discovered in cosmic rays by Carl David Anderson. Hess and Anderson shared the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Honours and awards


  • Hess, Victor F. (1928). The Electrical Conductivity of the Atmosphere and Its Causes. Constable & Company. OCLC 1900377.


  1. ^ a b c d "Victor F. Hess, Physicist, Dies. Shared the Nobel Prize in 1936. Was Early Experimenter on Conductivity of Air. Taught at Fordham Till 1958". New York Times. December 19, 1964. Retrieved 2012-09-30. ... under his supervision, the United States Radium Corporation in New Jersey. ... Dr. Hess married Marie Bertha Warner Breisky in 1920; she died in 1955. ...
  2. ^ a b "Victor Franz Hess". Nobel Foundation. 1936. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
  3. ^ a b c Angelo, Joseph A (2004). Nuclear Technology. Greenwood Press. pp. 121–124. ISBN 1-57356-336-6. Victor Franz Hess was born on the 24th of June, 1883, in Waldstein Castle, near Peggau in Steiermark, Austria. His father, Vinzens Hess, was a forester in Prince Öttingen-Wallerstein's service and his mother was Serafine Edle von Grossbauer-Waldstätt. ...
  4. ^ a b Bill Breisky (August 7, 2012). "Essay: On Its Centenary, Celebrating a Ride That Advanced Physics". New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
  5. ^ "Profile detail: Victor Franz Hess". Marquis Who's Who. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Victor Franz Hess. "My Faith". San Antonio Light Newspaper Archive. November 3, 1946, p. 52
  8. ^ V. F. Hess (1912). "Über Beobachtungen der durchdringenden Strahlung bei sieben Freiballonfahrten (English translation)" (PDF). Physikalische Zeitschrift. 13: 1084–1091.
  9. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 73. Retrieved 10 December 2012.

External links



was a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar, the 1883rd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 883rd year of the 2nd millennium, the 83rd year of the 19th century, and the 4th year of the 1880s decade. As of the start of 1883, the Gregorian calendar was

12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

1883 in science

The year 1883 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.


1964 (MCMLXIV)

was a leap year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1964th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 964th year of the 2nd millennium, the 64th year of the 20th century, and the 5th year of the 1960s decade.

Armin von Tschermak-Seysenegg

Armin Eduard Gustav Tschermak, Edler von Seysenegg (21 September 1870 – 9 October 1952) was an Austrian physiologist. He was an elder son of the Moravia-born mineralogist Gustav Tschermak von Seysenegg. He was instrumental in helping his botanist-brother Erich von Tschermak-Seysenegg in the rediscovery of Mendel's laws of genetics. He was Professor of Physiology at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna and the Institute of Physiology in Prague. He was elected member to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on 28 October 1936.

Astroparticle physics

Astroparticle physics, also called particle astrophysics, is a branch of particle physics that studies elementary particles of astronomical origin and their relation to astrophysics and cosmology. It is a relatively new field of research emerging at the intersection of particle physics, astronomy, astrophysics, detector physics, relativity, solid state physics, and cosmology. Partly motivated by the discovery of neutrino oscillation, the field has undergone rapid development, both theoretically and experimentally, since the early 2000s.

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Franz S. Exner

Franz Serafin Exner (24 March 1849 – 15 October 1926) was an Austrian physicist.

Hess (surname)

Hess or Heß, a German and Ashkenazic surname, meaning somebody originally from the region of Hesse. Two alternative origins have been reported. Usage in the south of Germany may arise from a contraction of the personal name Matthäus, whereas appearance in Germany or The Netherlands may arise from a modification of the personal name Hesso.Notable people who share this surname include:

Adam Hess (born 1981), American basketball player

Adam Hess (Comedian), British Comedian

András Hess, Hungarian printer

Beat W. Hess (born 1949), Swiss businessman

Bernhard Hess (born 1966), Swiss politician

Bernhard von Hess (1792–1869), Bavarian Lieutenant General and War Minister

Carl von Hess (1863–1923), German ophthalmologist

Catherina Hess, (born 1985), German actress

Damian Hess aka MC Frontalot, nerdcore rapper

Dean Hess (1917-2015), American Air Force Colonel

Derek Hess, (born 1964), American artist

Elizabeth Hess (born 1953), Canadian actress

Elmar Hess (born 1966), German artist

Eric Hess, American wrestler

Erika Hess (born 1962), Swiss alpine skier

Fred Hess (1944–2018), American jazz musician

Fred Hess (Wisconsin) (1858-1925), American politician

Fred J. Hess (1848-1928), American politician

Germain Henri Hess (1802–1850), Russian-Swiss chemist

Gregory Hess (born 1962), 16th President of Wabash College

Hans-Georg Hess (1923-2008), German U-boat captain

John Jacob Hess (1584-1639), Swiss-German Anabaptist minister and martyr

Harry Hammond Hess (1906–1969), American geologist best known for his theories on sea floor spreading

Harry Hess, American college sports coach

Harvey Hess (1939-2012), American lyric poet

Heinrich von Heß (1788–1870), Austrian fieldmarshall

Heinrich Maria von Hess, German painter

Hieronymus Hess, Swiss drawer, painter, caricaturist (1799-1850)

Ilse Hess, German writer (1900-1995)

Jake Hess, American southern gospel vocalist

Jared Hess (born 1979), American writer and director of Napoleon Dynamite

Johann Hess (Hesse), (1490–1547), German theologian

Karl Hess (1923–1994), American speechwriter and author

Karl Hess (painter) (1801-1874), German painter

Leon Hess Founder, Chairman of the Board & CEO of Hess Corporation and the New York Jets NFL Football franchise until his death

Markus Hess, German hacker

Michael A. Hess (1952-1995), American lawyer

Moses Hess (1812–1875), Jewish philosopher and proto-Zionist

Myra Hess (1890–1965), British pianist

Nigel Hess, British composer

Ortwin Hess, British optician and physicist

Orvan Hess (1906–2002), doctor who invented the fetal heart monitor

Peter von Hess, German painter

Rudolf Hess (1894–1987), Deputy Führer of Nazi Germany

Rudolf Hess (1903–1986), Californian painter and art critic

Sara Whalen Hess (born 1976), American Olympic soccer player

Ursula Hess (born 1946), Swiss archer

Ursula Hess (psychologist) (born 1960), German psychologist

Victor Francis Hess (1883–1964), Austrian-American physicist who discovered cosmic rays

Walter Rudolf Hess (1881–1973), Swiss physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1949

Willy Hess (violinist) (1859–1939), German famous violin virtuoso

Willy Hess (composer) (1906–1997), Swiss musicologist, composer, and famous Beethoven scholar

Wolf Rüdiger Hess (Heß) (1937–2001), German architect, right extremist and son of Rudolf Hess

Index of physics articles (V)

The index of physics articles is split into multiple pages due to its size.

To navigate by individual letter use the table of contents below.

June 24

June 24 is the 175th day of the year (176th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 190 days remain until the end of the year.

List of Austrian inventors and discoverers

This is a list of Austrian inventors and discoverers. The following list comprises people from Austria, and also people of predominantly Austrian heritage, in alphabetical order of the surname.

List of Fordham University faculty

The following is a partial list of current and former notable faculty of Fordham University in New York City.

List of Nobel laureates

The Nobel Prizes (Swedish: Nobelpriset, Norwegian: Nobelprisen) are prizes awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Swedish Academy, the Karolinska Institutet, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee to individuals and organizations who make outstanding contributions in the fields of chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine. They were established by the 1895 will of Alfred Nobel, which dictates that the awards should be administered by the Nobel Foundation. The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was established in 1968 by the Sveriges Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, for contributions to the field of economics. Each recipient, or "laureate", receives a gold medal, a diploma, and a sum of money, which is decided annually by the Nobel Foundation.

List of Nobel laureates in Physics

The Nobel Prize in Physics (Swedish: Nobelpriset i fysik) is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of physics. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the 1895 will of Alfred Nobel (who died in 1896), awarded for outstanding contributions in physics. As dictated by Nobel's will, the award is administered by the Nobel Foundation and awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The award is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on 10 December, the anniversary of Nobel's death. Each recipient receives a medal, a diploma and a monetary award prize that has varied throughout the years.

List of spectroscopists

Articles about notable spectroscopists.

Stefan Meyer (physicist)

Stefan Meyer (27 April 1872 – 29 December 1949) was an Austrian physicist involved in research on radioactivity. He became director of the Institute for Radium Research in Vienna and received the Lieben Prize in 1913 for his research on radium. He was the brother of Hans Leopold Meyer who was also awarded the Lieben Prize.

University of Innsbruck

The University of Innsbruck (German: Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck; Latin: Universitas Leopoldino Franciscea) is a public university in Innsbruck, the capital of the Austrian federal state of Tyrol, founded in 1669.

It is currently the largest education facility in the Austrian Bundesland of Tirol, the third largest in Austria behind Vienna University and the University of Graz and according to The Times Higher Education Supplement World Ranking 2010 Austria's leading university. Significant contributions have been made in many branches, most of all in the physics department. Further, regarding the number of Web of Science-listed publications, it occupies the third rank worldwide in the area of mountain research.

University of Vienna

The University of Vienna (German: Universität Wien) 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. With its long and rich history, the University of Vienna has developed into one of the largest universities in Europe, and also one of the most renowned, especially in the Humanities. It is associated with 20 Nobel prize winners and has been the academic home to a large number of scholars of historical as well as of academic importance.


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