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Felix Bloch

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Title: Felix Bloch  
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Subject: Condensed matter physics, Yevgeny Zavoisky, Bloch equations, List of Swiss inventors and discoverers, Erwin Schrödinger
Collection: 1905 Births, 1983 Deaths, American Nobel Laureates, American People of Swiss-Jewish Descent, American Physicists, Cern, Eth Zurich Alumni, Experimental Physicists, Harvard University People, Jewish American Scientists, Jewish Physicists, Leipzig University Alumni, Manhattan Project People, Nobel Laureates in Physics, People Associated with Cern, Stanford University Department of Physics Faculty, Swiss Emigrants to the United States, Swiss Jews, Swiss Nobel Laureates, Swiss Physicists
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Felix Bloch

Felix Bloch
Born (1905-10-23)23 October 1905
Zürich, Switzerland
Died 10 September 1983(1983-09-10) (aged 77)
Zürich, Switzerland
Citizenship Swiss, American
Nationality Swiss
Fields Physics
Institutions University of California, Berkeley
Stanford University
Alma mater ETH Zürich and University of Leipzig
Doctoral advisor Werner Heisenberg
Doctoral students Carson D. Jeffries
Known for NMR
Bloch wall
Bloch's Theorem
Bloch Function (Wave)
Bloch sphere
Notable awards Nobel Prize for Physics (1952)

Felix Bloch (23 October 1905 – 10 September 1983) was a Swiss born American physicist, working mainly in the U.S.[1] He and Edward Mills Purcell were awarded the 1952 Nobel Prize for "their development of new ways and methods for nuclear magnetic precision measurements."[2] In 1954–1955, he served for one year as the first Director-General of CERN.


  • Life and work 1
  • See also 2
  • Footnotes 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Life and work

Felix Bloch in the lab, 1950s

Bloch was born in Zürich, Switzerland to Jewish[3] parents Gustav and Agnes Bloch.

He was educated at the Cantonal Gymnasium in Zurich and at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETHZ), also in Zürich. Initially studying engineering he soon changed to physics. During this time he attended lectures and seminars given by Peter Debye and Hermann Weyl at ETH Zürich and Erwin Schrödinger at the neighboring University of Zürich. A fellow student in these seminars was John von Neumann. Graduating in 1927 he continued his physics studies at the University of Leipzig with Werner Heisenberg, gaining his doctorate in 1928. His doctoral thesis established the quantum theory of solids, using Bloch waves to describe the electrons.

In 1940 he married Lore Misch.[4]

He remained in European academia, studying with Wolfgang Pauli in Zürich, Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and Enrico Fermi in Rome before he went back to Leipzig assuming a position as privatdozent (lecturer). In 1933, immediately after Hitler came to power, he left Germany because he was Jewish.[5] He emigrated to work at Stanford University in 1934. In the fall of 1938, Bloch began working with the University of California at Berkeley 37" cyclotron to determine the magnetic moment of the neutron.[6] Bloch went on to become the first professor for theoretical physics at Stanford. In 1939, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. During WW II he worked on nuclear power at Los Alamos National Laboratory, before resigning to join the radar project at Harvard University.

After the war he concentrated on investigations into nuclear induction and nuclear magnetic resonance, which are the underlying principles of MRI.[7] In 1946 he proposed the Bloch equations which determine the time evolution of nuclear magnetization. When CERN was being set up in the early 1950s, its founders were searching for someone of the stature and international prestige to head the fledgling international laboratory, and in 1954 Professor Bloch became CERN's first Director-General,[8] at the time when construction was getting under way on the present Meyrin site and plans for the first machines were being drawn up. After leaving CERN, he returned to Stanford University, where he in 1961 was made Max Stein Professor of Physics.

At Stanford, he was the advisor of Carson D. Jeffries, who became a professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley.

He died in Zurich.[4]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Sohlman, M (Ed.) Nobel Foundation directory 2003. Vastervik, Sweden: AB CO Ekblad; 2003.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Former Fellows of The Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783 – 2002.
  5. ^ "Bloch, Felix", Current Biography, H. W. Wilson Company, 1954. Accessed 24 February 2013. "Because of his Jewish faith, his position soon became uncomfortable and he went to Paris, where he lectured at the Institut Henri Poincaré."
  6. ^ Felix Bloch, Nuclear Induction, Bloch Equations, Bloch Theorem, Bloch States. Retrieved on 26 June 2015.
  7. ^
  8. ^


Further reading

  • Bloch, F.; Staub, H. "Fission Spectrum", Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) (through predecessor agency Los Alamos Scientific Lab), United States Department of Energy (through predecessor agency the US Atomic Energy Commission), (August 18, 1943).

External links

  • Biography and Bibliographic Resources, from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, United States Department of Energy
  • Oral History interview transcript with Felix Bloch 14 May 1964, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives
  • Oral History interview transcript with Felix Bloch 15 August 1968, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives
  • Oral History interview transcript with Felix Bloch 15 December 1981, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives
  • Felix Bloch Papers, 1931–1987 (33 linear ft.) are housed in the Department of Special Collections and University Archives at Stanford University Libraries
  • National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir
  • Felix Bloch Papers
Business positions
Preceded by
Position created
First Director-General of CERN
Succeeded by
Cornelis Bakker
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