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Roland Eötvös (1848-1919): new souvenirs

Posted By admin, Monday 10 February 2020
Updated: Monday 10 February 2020

Last year Hungary solemnly commemorated, under the aegis of UNESCO, the centenary of the passing away of Roland Eötvös (1848-1919), the founding father of Geophysics. As is generally known, Eötvös developed the ‘torsion balance’ carrying his name, an instrument sufficiently sensitive to charter the variation of gravitation in the field. Since gravitation is a matter of masses, the ‘torsion balance’ is able, so to speak, to look in the underground. In 1916, its first important achievement, namely the confirmation of the existence of oil fields at Egbell (now Gbely, Slovakia), showed its fiability.



Fig.1  Roland Eötvös (1848-1919) by Gyula Éder (1941; oil on canvas).

Courtesy: Roland Eötvös University (ELTE), Budapest.


In a next issue of the series ‘Tributes’, in Europhysics News, details of theory and practice of the instrument will be discussed. Accidently, during the preparation of the ‘Tribute to Roland Eötvös’ crucial new souvenirs of Eötvös showed up in the Archives of the Ruprecht-Karls-University, at Heidelberg. Indeed it was at Heidelberg’s University that Eötvös studied Physics as his ‘major’—under no one less than Gustav Kirchhoff (1824-1887)—with Chemistry and Mathematics as ‘minors’. In 1870, he also passed the PhD at Heidelberg, ‘summa cum laude’, that is, with the highest possible honours. Importantly, the formalities at the time were not our’s. Passing the PhD, mostly, occurred without a dissertation. It consisted of an oral examination in German of 2-3 hours before the assembled Professors of the Heidelberg Faculty of Philosophy.


For the EPS-community it is interesting that the PhD-files concerning Eötvös still exist: the Archives of the University of Heidelberg, the oldest of all of Germany, is able to document almost all doctorates awarded in its long past. In the case of Eötvös, something fully unknown showed up: a handwritten curriculum vitae by Eötvös himself, and in still compulsory Latin. As we may imagine, this find will enable to further detail Eötvös’ already exciting biography. It was announced last January 23rd before the Aula of the Ruprecht-Karls-University, Heidelberg (Fig.2).


Fig.2  Presentation of the Eötvös files as (re)discovered in the Archives of the

Ruprecht-Karls University, Heidelberg, on January 23rd, 2020.

In the middle: Matthias Weidemüller, Pro-Rector of the University and physicist.

On the right: Ingo Runde, Director of the Archives.

On the left: Henk Kubbinga (EPS-History of Physics Group).

Picture: Oliver Fink (Press Departement, Heidelberg).

 author: Henk Kubbinga

Tags:  Roland Eötvös 

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