Clemens Schaefer

24th March 1878 to 9th July 1968

Clemens Schaefer, signature, University of Breslau 1930

Physicist Clemens Schaefer studied in Bonn and Berlin, becoming an associate professor at the University of Breslau in 1910, gaining a full professorship in 1917. For a few years he was then professor of experimental physics at Marburg, before returning to Breslau in 1926. After the war he had a Chair in physics at the University of Cologne.


Clemens Schaefer, University of Brelsau handbook, 1931

Göppertstraße can be seen in the map below. This extract from the 1930-1931 handbook, above, also tells us that Schaefer at the time was Director of the (German) physics institute. At the time, this was part of the Institute of natural sciences and medicine. Schaefer was also head of scientific examinations in his area, and a ‘tester’ – presumably for oral examinations (viva voce).

Goppertstraße, Brelsau 1931

A few years later, according to the 1935-1936 handbook, Schaefer was still Director of the German Physics institute. He would have taken the Oath of Loyalty to the National Socialist German state in 1933.

In 1935 he is also listed as being on the Committee for medical examinations, again with responsibility for physics, and on the Committee for dental examinations. Finally in this field, he was on the Committee for the state examinations for pharmacy.

The last entry from the 1935 handbook, extracted below, gives a idea of the breadth of Shaefer’s teaching at Breslau by the mid 1930s.

Clemens Schaefer, University of Breslau, 1935-1936

Schaefer’s research was on optics, including infrared spectroscopy, colour theory and ultrasound in crystals (the main area Werner Weissenberg specialised in). He also worked on thermodynamics, both experimentally and theoretically.

Notably, Schaefer gave a lecture attended by Max Born (2014) at Breslau – as apart of a course on Maxwell’s electrodynamics: anecdotally, ‘it was a bad lecture, as lectures by young and inexperienced men are bound to be, but the matter was fascinating in spite of the poor and foggy representation’.

Schaefer lost three of his four sons in the fighting in the Second World War – two of whom were initially reported ‘missing’ in the USSR, and he was also said to have lost everything pertaining to his life and work at Breslau when Silesia was given to Poland (and so to the USSR) at the end of the war (McRae 2014).


All black and white extracts on this page are from the 'Vorlesungs und Personal Verzeichnis der Schlesischen Friedrich Wilhelms Universität zu Breslau Winter Semester 1930/1931', and the equivalent handbook for 1935-1936, available online at the University of Wrocław.

The map extract is from the excellent fotopolska.eu.