Holborn, Ludwig Christian Friedrich

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Holborn, Ludwig Christian Friedrich

(b. Göttingen, Germany, 29 September 1860; d. Berlin, Germany, 19 September 1926)


Holborn, a preeminent physicist in the field of quantitative-measurement analysis, made a particularly noteworthy contribution in this area with his precise measurements of high and low temperatures.

After attending the Realschule in Göttingen, he studied natural sciences at the university in that city from 1879 to 1884 and earned a teaching diploma in mathematics and physics. He also qualified in mineralogy and zoology but did not actually teach these subjects. From 1884 to 1889 he was an assistant to E. Schering at the geomagnetic observatory in Göttingen. In 1887 he received his doctorate for a dissertation on the daily mean values of magnetic declination and horizontal intensity, an investigation in which he carried out measurements of terrestrial magnetism. In 1903 he constructed a torsion magnetometer with F. W. G. Kohlrausch.

In 1890 Holborn changed his field of research and worked under Helmholtz, and later Kohlrausch, at the newly founded (1889) Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt in Berlin; he became an actual member of the organization in 1898. Holborn became director of the thermodynamic laboratories in 1914 and representative of the president of the Reichsanstalt in 1918.

In his work on gas temperatures, Holborn determined, along with W. Wien and A. L. Day, the accuracy of measurements made with thermoelements and investigated the various fixed points, including that for oxygen. In 1901 he and F. Kurlbaum built an optical or incandescent-filament pyrometer having an adjustable brightness setting. In addition, Holborn compared the temperature scales and gave crucial support to the introduction by law, in 1924, of the thermodynamic scale in Germany. He examined the thermocaloric properties of gases and of water vapor, as well as the compressibility of gases. Holborn also plotted the isothermal lines for monoatomic gases at temperatures greater than 100°C., without, however, offering a theoretical interpretation.


I. Original Works. Holborn wrote more than seventy scientific papers, most of which were originally published as Mitteilungen aus der Physikalisch-Technisehen Reiehsanstalt. Individual works include “Ueber die Messung höher Temperaturen,” in Annalen der Physik und Chemie, n.s. 47 (1892), 107–134, and 56 (1895), 360–396, written with W. Wien; “Ueber die Messung tiefer Temperaturen,” ibid.,59 (1896), 213–228, written with Wien; “Ueber das Luftthermometer bei hohen Temperaturen,” ibid., 68 (1899), 817–832, and Annalen der Physik,2 (1900), 505–545, written with A. Day.

See also “Über ein optisches Pyrometer,” in Annalen der Physik,10 (1903), 225–241, written with F. Kurlbaum (paper first read in session of the Academy of Sciences, Berlin, 13 June 1901); “Über ein störungsfreies Torsions-magnetometer,” ibid.,10 (1903), 287–304, written with F. W. G. Kohlrausch; “Über ein tragbares Torsions-magnetometer,” ibid.,13 (1904), 1034–1059, written with Kohlrausch; “Über die spezifische Wärme von Stickstoff, Kohlensäure and Wasserdampf his 1400°,” ibid., 23 (1907), 809–845, written with F. Henning; “Über das Platinthermometer and den Sättigungsdruck des Wasserdampfes zwischen 50° and 200°,” ibid.,26 (1908), 833–883, written with Henning; “Über den Sättigungsdruck des Wasserdampfes oberhalb 200°,” ibid,31 (1910), 945–970, written with A. Baumann; “Öber die Druckwage and die Isothermen von Luft, Argon and Helium zwischen 0° bis 200°,” ibid.,47 (1915), 1089–1111, written with H. Schultze.

The following contributions are of special interest in the history of thermodynamics and exemplify Holborn’s activity in this field: “Kalorimetrie,” in Kultur der Gegenwart,1, pt. 3, sec. 3 (1915), 112–117; “Mechanische und thermische Eigenschaften der Materie in den drei Aggregatzustanden,” ibid., 128–153; “Umwandlungspunkte, Erscheinungen bei koexistierenden Phasen,” ibid., 154–178; “Die Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt. Fünfundzwanzig Jahre ihrer Tätigkeit. 2. Wärme,” in Naturwissenschaften,1 (1913), 225–229; Ergebnisse aus den thermischen Untersuchungen der Physikalisch-Technisehen Reiehsanstalt (Brunswick, 1919), written with K. Scheel and F. Henning.

Holborn’s contributions to others’ works include “Mess—Methoden und Mess—Technik,” in Wien and F. Harms, Handbuch der Experimentalphysik, I (1926), 1–329; “Elektrolytische Leitung,” in L. Gräetz, Handbuch der Elektrizität und des Magnetismus, III (1922), and in Kohlrausch, Das Leitvermögen der Elektrolyte (1st ed. b y Kohlrausch and Holborn, 1898; 2nd ed., Leipzig, 1916). Holborn was a standing collaborator for Kohlrausch, Praktische Physik, 12th-14th eds. (Leipzig, 1914–1923), and for H. Landolt and E. Börnstein, Physikalisch-chemische Tabellen, 5th ed. (Leipzig, 1923).

For a bibliography of Holborn’s works see Poggendorff, IV (1904), 655–656; V (1926), 550; VI (1937), 1144.

II. Secondary Literature. See F. Henning, “Ludwig Holborn,” in Physikalische Zeitschrift,28 (1927), 157–170.

Hans-GÜnther KÖrber