Arons, Leo

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ARONS, LEO (1860–1919), German physicist and Social Democrat. The son of a wealthy Berlin banker, he became an assistant at the Institute of Physics and a Privatdozent in Strasbourg (1888–90) and Berlin (1890–1900). Because of his political convictions and his Jewish faith, he never obtained a professorship. In 1899, the Prussian Ministry of Public Education (Kultusministerium), considering his political activities incompatible with his academic duties, demanded his dismissal. When the faculty refused, the Prussian Diet passed a law ("Lex Arons") establishing the government as a body of appeal against disciplinary decisions of a faculty. Thereupon the faculty again confirmed unanimously its former decision, but the government, using the new law, dismissed Arons from his academic position.

In the area of physics, Arons devoted himself to empirical research on electric phenomena which fall under the Maxwell theory. One of his discoveries was the mercury vapor lamp, which was of considerable practical and scientific importance as a source of ultraviolet rays.

Arons belonged to the revisionist wing of his party. He was a city councilor of Berlin and interested himself mainly in educational matters, land reform, and consumers' cooperatives. He was financially independent and a generous donor, making possible the publication of the German bi-monthly, Sozialistische Monatshefte. The establishment of the Workers' Education School (Arbeiterbildungsschule) of the Social Democratic Party and the Trade Union Building in Berlin were also results of his contributions.


Sozialistische Monatshefte (Nov. 7, 1919), 1058 ff. (Albert Einstein, Paul Hirsch, and Wally Zepler as well as others), about the various aspects of Arons' person and work; U.V. Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Erinnerungen 1848–1914 (19282), 295.

[Ernest Hamburger]