Markus Fierz

Markus Fierz was my grandfather. He was born on June 20, 1912, and died on his 94th birthday in 2006. He was theoretical physicist; first as an assistant to Wolfgang Pauli, then later a professor at the university of Basel, then director of the theoretical division at CERN, and finally a professor at ETH Zürich in a kind of symbiotic relationship with Res Jost. He retired early at the age of 64, and then devoted his time to the history of physics.

Unfortunately I never really could talk much with him about physics: first I was too young to understand him, and later he was too old to understand me - because his hearing was so bad, not because he wouldn't have understood what I was doing. In my first year as physics student, I did a numerical computation for him which lead to a small publication, but I didn't really understand what I was doing at the time! Today, with more understanding, I don't believe the conclusions in that paper are correct at all. Anyway, perhaps I would have studied something different if it hadn't been for his example (the rest of my family consisting of medical doctors - shudder!). My grandfather was famous for something known as the Fierz transformation in quantum field theory. Since I'm only an experimental physicist myself, I have no idea what it is good for :-)


I found some pictures of my grandfather while we were clearing his house. I scanned some of them, and the three nicest follow below. Besides the .jpg file that you see, there is also a high-quality .tiff file available for each of the pictures.

Markus Fierz in 1936
A picture of Markus Fierz in 1936. Hi-res tif version (6.5MB)

Markus and Menga Fierz at their Marriage
Markus and Menga Fierz at their wedding. The children on the picture are Menga's youngest (half-)siblings, Röxli and Thomi Biber. Hi-res tif version (10.0MB)

Markus Fierz in 1970
A picture of Markus Fierz in 1970. Hi-res tif version (7.3MB)

Postcards from Wolfgang Pauli

Among the documents we found when clearing the house, there were also some postcards from Wolfgang Pauli. Although they are private communications, I decided to scan these too, and publish them here as PDF - there might be some kind of interest in these postcards for Pauli scholars. In particular, Peierls being squashed in postcard 3 ist interesting! You may use both the pictures and the postcards in any way you see fit.

After my grandfather's death, I received a couple of audio tapes with lectures on the history of physics, held during the winter semester 1972/1973 (in German of course). I have digitized them; unfortunately, the result is not very good - the tapes are very old, and I have no experience in digitizing audio. Of the 14 lectures, one is missing, and two are incomplete. The remaining 11 lectures are complete.

Martin Fierz, November 30, 2008