Ludwig Franz Benedikt Biermann

Ludwig Franz Benedikt Biermann


Date of Birth
March 13, 1907
Date of Death
January 12, 1986

Ludwig Biermann studied at the Technische Hochschule Hannover (now the Leibniz University Hannover), and the Universities of Munich and Freiburg before earning his Ph.D. at Göttingen in 1932. He worked at Edinburgh, JenaBerlin, and Hamburg before becoming founding director of the astrophysics section of the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics, first at Göttingen and after 1958 in Munich. (It is now the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics.) Biermann made important contributions to the theory of convection in stellar interiors before the source of stellar energy was known. He modeled the solar chromosphere and corona. He and Thomas G. Cowling did similar work on stellar interiors and stability, and before and after World War II they collaborated by letter. Biermann computed atomic physics parameters needed for stellar models. His study of comet tails led to successful predictions of the solar wind and of the hydrogen halos around comets. In his later years he specialized in plasma physics and magnetic fields in the solar system and in the Galaxy.

Presentation of Bruce medal

Abt, Helmut A. PASP 79,197-201 (1967).

Other awards

Astronomische Gesellschaft, Karl Schwarzschild Medal, 1980, presented by Th. Schmidt-Kaler, Mitt. Astron. Ges. 51, 33-34 (1980) [in German].
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold Medal, 1974, presented by D.E. Blackwell, QJRAS 15, 219-23 (1974).
COSPAR, Space Science Award, 1986.

Biographical materials

Biermann, Ludwig, Ludwig Biermann, 1907-1986 (Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Munich, 1988). [autobiography, in German]
Wielebinski, Richard, “Ludwig Franz Benedikt Biermann: The Doyen of German Post-War Astrophysics,” Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage 18, 277-84 (2015).


Trefftz, E., “Nachruf auf Professor Ludwig Biermann,” J. Geophys. 60, 3, 204-06 (1986).
Börner, G., Phys. Bl. 42. Jahrg., Heft 10, p. 358-359 (1986).
Börner, G., “Ludwig Biermann (1907-1986),” in Past, Present and Future Trends in Geophysical Research, Wilfried Schröder, ed., Interdivisional Commission on History of IAGA, 1988 (Newsletters of the Interdivisional Commission on History of IAGA, no. 3)
Cowling, T.G. & L. Mestel, QJRAS 27, 698-700 (1986).
Kippenhahn, Rudolf, Mitt. Astron. Ges.66, 10-11 (1986).
Lüst, R., Sterne & Weltraum 25, 250-251 (1986).
Priester, W., Sterne & Weltraum 25, 126-27 (1986).
More obituaries


AIP Center for History of Physics
International Atomic Energy Association

Named after him

Minor Planet #73640 Biermann
Astronomische Gesellschaft, Ludwig Biermann Award


Papers, etc.

The AIP Niels Bohr Library & Archives has 1978 and 1984 oral history interviews with Biermann as well as interviews with T.G. Cowling and others, a manuscript biography by Helmut Abt, and a 1978 autobiographical letter to Karl Hufbauer.

Other References: Historical

Arny, Thomas, “The Star Makers: A History of the Theories of Stellar Structure and Evolution,” Vistas in Astronomy 33, 211-33 (1990).

Biermann, L., “Historical Reminiscences of the Origins of Stellar Convection Theory,” Problems of Stellar ConvectionProceedings of IAU Colloq. 38, held in Nice, August 16-20, 1976. Edited by E. A. Spiegel and J. P. Zahn. (Springer Verlag, Berlin, 1977). Also Lecture Notes in Physics71, 4-14.

Cowling, Thomas, “The Development of the Theory of Stellar Structures,” QJRAS 7, 121-37 (1966).

Festou, Michel C., Hans Rickman, and Richard M. West, “ Comets”, The Astronomy & Astrophysics Review 4, 363-447 (1993) .

Hufbauer, Karl, Exploring the Sun: Solar Science Since Galileo (Johns Hopkins U.P., 1991).

Kuiper, G.P., “German Astronomy During the War,” Popular Astronomy 54, 263-87 (1946).

Stern, David P. & Mauricio Peredo, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, The Exploration of the Earth's Magnetosphere: The Solar Wind

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Other References: Scientific

Biermann, Ludwig, “Untersuchungen über den inneren Aufbau der Sterne, II. Über die Mittelpunktstemperatur der Sterne der Hauptreihe. Mit 1 Abbildung,” Veroeffentlichungen der Universitaets-Sternwarte zu Goettingen 2, 162.3-171 (1931).

Biermann, Ludwig, “Untersuchungen über den inneren Aufbau der Sterne, III. Über Sternmodelle mit entartetem Kern,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 3, 306-12 (1931).

Biermann, Ludwig, “Untersuchungen über den inneren Aufbau der Sterne, IV. Konvektionszonen im Inneren der Sterne,” Veroeffentlichungen der Universitaets-Sternwarte zu Goettingen 2, 221-43 (1932).

Biermann, Ludwig, “Untersuchungen uber Sternatmospheren. I. Die Wellenlangenabhangigkeit des Absorptionskoeffixienten. II. Die Opazitat,” Veroeffentlichungen der Universitaets-Sternwarte zu Goettingen 3, 45-63 (1933).

Biermann, L., “Konvektion im Innern der Sterne,” Astr. Nachr. 257, 269-96 (1935).

Cowling, T.G., “Remarks on L. Biermann’s paper “Konvektion im Innern der Sterne, ” Astr. Nach. 258, 133-34 (1936).

Biermann, L., “Über Sternmodelle mit der Energieerzeugung ε ∼ T,” Astr. Nachr. 258, 257-64 (1936).

Biermann, L., “Über die Ionisation und Opazität in den Gebieten des Sterninneren mit Temperaturen zwischen 25000° und 1000000°,” Astr. Nachr. 259, 221-30 (1936).

Biermann, L., “Chemische Zusammensetzung und dynamische Stabilität der Sterne,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 16, 29-42 (1938).

Biermann, L. & T.G. Cowling, “Chemische Zusammensetzung und dynamische Stabilität der Sterne. II,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 19, 1-10 (1940).

Biermann, L., “Über den Typus der Konvektion in Instabilitätszonen,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 22, 65-69 (1942).

Biermann, L., “Über die Chemische Zusammensetzung der Sonne,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 22, 244-64 (1943).

Biermann, L., “Konvektion in Rotierenden Sternen,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 25, 135-44 (1948).

Biermann, Ludwig & Arnulf Schlüter,“Cosmic Radiation and Cosmic Magnetic Fields. II. Origin of Cosmic Magnetic Fields,” Phys. Rev. 82, 863-68 (1951).

Biermann, L., “Kometenschweife und solare Korpuskularstrahlung,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 29, 274-86 (1951).

Biermann, L., “Solar Corpuscular Radiation and the Interplanetary Gas,” Observatory 77, 109-110 (1957) [reprinted, with commentary, in Lang, Kenneth R. & Owen Gingerich, eds., A Source Book in Astronomy & Astrophysics, 1900-1975 (Harvard Univ. Press, 1979), 147-48].

Biermann, L. & Leverett Davis, Jr., “Considerations Bearing on the Structure of the Galaxy,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 51, 19-31 (1960).

Biermann, L., “Relations between Plasma Physics and Astrophysics,” Rev. Mod. Phys. 32, 1008-11 (1960).

Biermann, L., “The Plasma Tails of Comets and the Interplanetary Plasma,” Space Sci. Rev. 1, 553 (1963).

Antrack, D., L. Biermann, & Rh. Lüst, “Some Statistical Properties of Comets with Plasma Tails,” Ann. Rev. Astr. Astrophys. 2, 327 (1964).

Biermann, L.; Brosowski, B.; Schmidt, H. U., “The Interactions of the Solar Wind with a Comet,” Solar Physics 1, 254-284 (1967).

Biermann, L., “Comets and their Interaction with the Solar Wind,” QJRAS 12, 417-31 (1971).

Biermann, L., “Interaction of a Comet with the Solar Wind,” Solar Wind Three; Proceedings of the Third Conference, Pacific Grove, Calif., March 25-29, 1974 (UCLA, Los Angeles, 1974), 396-414 [abstract].

Biermann, Ludwig, “Dreißig Jahre Kometenforschung,” Mitteilungen der AG 51, 37-48 (1980). [Karl Schwarzschild Lecture, in German]

Biermann, L., “The Smaller Bodies of the Solar System,” Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. London Ser. A, 303, 351-352 (1981) [abstract].

Biermann, L., P.T. Giguere, & W.F. Huebner, “A Model of a Comet Coma with Interstellar Molecules in the Nucleus,” Astron. & Astrophys. 108, 221-26 (1982).

Kemp, James C., “The Biermann Mechanism and Spontaneous Magnetic Field Generation in Stars,” PASP 94, 627-33 (1982).

Biermann, L. W.F. Huebner, & Rh. Lust, “Aphelion Clustering of ‘New’ Comets: Star Tracks through Oort’s Cloud,” Pubs. Natl. Acad. Sci. 80, 5151-55 (1983).

Cosmovici, C.B., L. Biermann, & R. Luest, “Search for Exotic Molecules in Bright Comets,” in E. Rolfe & B. Battrick, eds., Proceedings of the 4th European IUE Conf., held in Rome, Italy 15-18 May 1984 (ESA SP-218, Paris, 1984), pp. 455-57.

Schmidt, W.K.H., et al., “The Giotto Halley Multicolour Camera,” ESA Special Publication 1077 (European Space Agency, 1986), pp. 149-72.

Other Works: Popularizations, History, etc.

Biermann, Ludwig, “Recent Work on Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion in German (Federal Republic),” 2nd Geneva Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, 1958 (report in pdf).

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