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Hertha Sponer

Hertha Sponer
Neisse, East Prussia
Ilten, Germany
Residence Germany
Nationality German
InstitutionsUniversity of Jena
Alma materUniversity of Göttingen
Academic advisor  Peter Debye
Known forExtensive work in quantum mechanics and molecular physics.
Notable prizes1952-53 Guggenheim Fellow.
Fellow, New York Academy of Sciences.
Fellow, Optical Society of America.
Fellow, American Physical Society.

Hertha Sponer (1895 in Neisse – 1968 in Ilten), was a German physicist and Chemist with extensive contributions to modern quantum mechanics and molecular physics and was the first woman on the physics faculty of Duke University.

Sponer was born in Neisse (then East Prussia) and obtained her High School degree in Neisse. She spent a year at the University of Tübingen after which she enrolled at the University of Göttingen where she received her Ph.D in 1920 under the supervision of Peter Debye. During her time at the University of Tübingen she was an assistant of James Franck. In 1921 she along with a few others was one of the first women to obtain a PhD in Physics in Germany along with the right to teach science at a German University. In October of 1925 she received a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship stay at University of California, Berkeley, where she stayed one year.[1]

In 1932 she had published around 20 scientific papers in journals such as Nature and Physical Review, and had become an associate professor of physics. In 1933 James Franck resigned and left Göttingen and a year later she was dismissed from her position when Hitler came to power due to the Nazi's stigma against females in academia. In 1934 she moved to Oslo to teach at the University of Oslo as a visiting professor and in 1936 she started her appointment at Duke University where she stayed as a professor until 1966 when she became Professor Emeritus until her death in 1968.[2]

During her time academic career she had done research in Quantum mechanics, Physics and Chemistry. She has authored and published numerous studies, many of which were in collaboration with famous physicists including Edward Teller. She has made many contributions to science including the application of quantum mechanics to molecular physics and has done spectroscopic work on the spectra of near ultra-violet absorption. She set up a spectroscopy lab in the physics department of Duke University which was later moved to its own, new building.

She married James Franck in 1946.


  • "Inelastic Impacts of Electrons with Mercury Atoms," Zeits. f. Physik, 7.3: 185 (1921).
  • "The Series Spectra of Lead and Tin," Zeits. f. Physik, 32.1: 19 (1925).
  • "Heat of Dissociation Of Non-Polar Molecules," Phys. Rev. 28: 259 (1926) with R. Birge.
  • "Predissociation Spectra of Triatomic Molecules," Zeits. f. Physik pp. 18: 88 (1932) with J. Franck and E. Teller.
  • "Analysis of near U.V. Electronic Transition of Benzene," J.Chem.. Phys. 7: 207 (1939) with L. Nordheim, A.L.Sklar, and E. Teller.


  1. ^ Hertha Sponer (1895- 1968). Duke University. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  2. ^ Anders, U. (2002-12-22). Hertha Sponer. quantum-chemistry-history. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Hertha_Sponer". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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