(June 25, 1864 – November 18, 1941)
Like the inventor James Watt, Walther Nernst was an insightful researcher who sought practical applications for whatever concept he learned. His ingenuous tentacles engulfed various branches of mathematics, physics and chemistry. He was deemed a chemist partly due to the fact that he won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1920. But strictly speaking, his academic degrees were in physics and mathematics: with both Friedrich Kohlrausch and Ludwig Boltzmann being among his former professors. Even that Nobel Prize was for his formulation of what became Nernst Heat Theorem, which played vital role in the development of the Third Law of Thermodynamics. Alongside adiabatic and solid-state physics experiments, Nernst explored photochemistry, electrochemistry and spectroscopy. In the process, he published various treatises and mentored numerous students. His scope ramified the entire physical sciences, while his brilliance attracted joint ventures. For instance, his collaboration with Bechstein and Siemens enabled him to spearhead the development of the first electronic piano at the Physics Institute of the Humboldt University Berlin, in the 1930s. This he achieved by employing vacuum tube amplifiers instead of the conventional sounding board. He was a close friend of Albert Einstein and Max Planck with whom he corresponded regularly. In fact, it was Nernst and Planck who organized the first Solvay Conference which Hendrik Lorentz chaired in 1911 (in Brussels, Belgium). Among the several scientific concepts and items named after him is the 116-kilometer-wide Nernst lunar impact crater, situated near to those of Wilhelm Roentgen, Hendrik Lorentz and Avicenna of Persia.