Johannes (Hans) Wilhelm Geiger

Hans Geiger with Erner Rutherford

Johannes (Hans) Wilhelm Geiger (September 30, 1882 – September 24, 1945) was a German physicist. He is perhaps best-known as the co-inventor of the Geiger counter, and for the Geiger-Marsden experiment which discovered the atomic nucleus.

Geiger was born at Neustadt-an-der-Haardt, Germany. He was one of five children born to Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger, a philosophy professor at the University of Erlangen.

In 1902 Geiger started studying physics and mathematics in University of Erlangen and was awarded a doctorate in 1906. In 1907 he began work with Ernest Rutherford at the University of Manchester. Together they created the Geiger counter. In 1911 Geiger and John Mitchell Nuttall discovered the Geiger-Nuttall law (or rule) and performed experiments that led to Rutherford's atomic model. In 1928 Geiger and his student Walther Müller created an improved version of the Geiger counter, the Geiger-Müller counter. Geiger also worked with James Chadwick.

In 1912 he became leader of the Physical-Technical Reichsanstalt in Berlin, 1925 professor in Kiel, 1929 in Tübingen, and from 1936 in Berlin.

Geiger died in Potsdam a few months after the war ended.

German physicists in World War II worked on but failed to create the German atomic bomb. How much this failure resulted from lack of scientific progress and how much from foot-dragging due to ethical concerns remains a lively debate even today.


Geiger was postulated as a later member of the Uranverein (Uranium Club) in Nazi Germany, with Hahn, Hartek, Bothe & Heisenberg. But this is an Alternative history or fictitious version of what could have happened in WWII; see the Othertimelines website below.

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