Victor Franz Hess (Lock Waldstein near Deutschfeistritz (Austria), 24 June 1883 – Mount Vernon, New York17 december 1964) was an Austrian-American physicist.For the discovery of cosmic radiation he received in 1936 along with Carl David Anderson the Nobel Prize in physics.


Vinzens Hess and Serafine Hess was the son of Edle von Grossbauer-Waldstätt. His father was a Royal Ranger in the service of Prince Louis, count of Oettingen-Wallerstein. From 1893 to 1901 he enjoyed secondary studies with the Graz Gymnasium. Then he went to the University of Graz where he studied physics. He obtained his doctorate there in 1910 with the highest Austrian Award for a PhD candidate in that time – sub auspiciis imperatoris (under the supervision of the Emperor).

From 1910 to 1920 he worked as Assistant under Stefan Meyer at the newly founded Institut für Radiumforschung (Institute for radium research), part of the Vienna Academy of Sciences. In 1921 he traveled to the United States, where he worked for the U.S. Radium Corporation in Orange (New Jersey) and as Consulting Physicist for the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Washington D.C. In 1923 he returned to the University of Graz, first as a teacher and from 1925 as just Professor of experimental physics.

After Professor at the universities of Graz and Innsbruck , he moved to the United States to meet the nazi's escape (Hess was pronounced anti-nazi and his wife Maria Bertha Warner Breisky was Jewish) and was a professor at the Fordham University. In 1944 he became an American citizen.

Cosmic rays[Edit]Edit

Early 1910s claimed Hess at the Institut für Radiumforschung Vienna to the work for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1936. Already in 1785 had the French physicistCharles-Augustin de Coulomb observed that a charged electroscope gradually lose his load. It was only in 1907 had the German Jesuit father Theodor Wulf demonstrated that this discharge is the result of what he called Höhenstrahlung (height radiation).

Intrigued by the findings of David Hess decided to test the results further by using a hot air balloon of the Viennese Kaiserliche und Königliche Österreichische Aeroklub to go even higher. This balloon flights took place day and night in order to exclude the alleged influence of the Sun. With his last flight, he managed eventually to reach a height of 5350 m.

The results of Hess ' meticulous research were published in the memoirs of the Vienna Academy of Sciences and in the Physikalische Zeitschrift. [1he had determined that the radiation level to about one km altitude rose considerably waned, but above it. Five kilometres was the radiation levels twice as high than the measured value at sea level. This he confirmed Wulfs perception and concluded that the radiation from outer space was to come. Hess ' results were confirmed in 1925 by the American physicist Robert Millikan who called the phenomenon "cosmic radiation". The discovery of cosmic rays opened the door to many new discoveries in nuclear physics.


Hess published around the sixty articles and several books, the most important were:

  • That Wärmeproduktion des Radiums (1912)
  • Ionisierten Konvektionserscheinungen in Gasen-ion breeze (1919-1920)
  • The measurement of gamma rays (1916, with r.w. Lawson)
  • The counting or alpha particles emitted from radium (1918, also with r. w. Lawson)
  • Electric Leitfähigkeit der Atmosphare und ihre Ursachen (1926)
    • English: The Electrical Conductivity of the Atmosphere and Its Causes (1928)
  • Ionenbilanz der Atmosphare (1933)
  • Luftelektrizität (1928, with h. Benndorf)
  • Ions in der Lebensdauer der Atmosphare (1927-1928)
  • Schwankungen der kosmischen Intensität in the kind of radiation (1929-1936)
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