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Felix Bloch

Felix Bloch (1905-1983)
Born October 23, 1905(1905-10-23)
Zürich, Switzerland
Died September 10, 1983 (aged 77)
Zürich, Switzerland
Nationality Switzerland
Fields Physics
Institutions Stanford University
Alma mater ETH Zürich and University of Leipzig
Doctoral advisor Werner Heisenberg
Known for NMR
Bloch wall
Bloch's Theorem
Notable awards Nobel Prize for Physics (1952)

Felix Bloch (October 23, 1905 – September 10, 1983) was a Swiss physicist, working mainly in the U.S.


Life and work

Bloch was born in Zürich, Switzerland to Jewish parents Gustav and Agnes Bloch. He was educated there and at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, 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.

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, emigrating to work at Stanford University in 1934, where he became the first professor for theoretical physics. 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[1]. In 1946 he proposed the Bloch equations which determine the time evolution of nuclear magnetization. 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. In 1961, he was made Max Stein Professor of Physics at Stanford University.


  • Physics Today 1984, 37(3), pp. 115-116.
  • Nature 1952, 170, pp. 911-912.
  • Nature 1954, 174, pp. 774-775.
  • McGraw-Hill Modern Men of Science, McGraw-Hill, 1966, vol. 1, pp. 45-46.
  • National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, James T. White & Co., 1921-1984, vol. I, pp. 310-312.


  1. ^ Shampo, M A; Kyle R A (September 1995). "Felix Bloch--developer of magnetic resonance imaging". Mayo Clin. Proc. 70 (9): 889. PMID 7643644.  
  2. ^ - Sohlman, M (Ed.) Nobel Foundation directory 2003. Vastervik, Sweden: AB CO Ekblad; 2003.

External links

Research resources



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Free imagination is the inestimable prerogative of youth and it must be cherished and guarded as a treasure.

Felix Bloch (October 23, 1905September 10, 1983) was a Swiss physicist, who was awarded the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physics together with Edward Purcell "for their development of new methods for nuclear magnetic precision measurements and discoveries in connection therewith".


  • While I am certainly not asking you to close your eyes to the experiences of earlier generations, I want to advise you not to conform too soon and to resist the pressure of practical necessity. Free imagination is the inestimable prerogative of youth and it must be cherished and guarded as a treasure.

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