Achilles Papapetrou (1907-1997): A Greek physicist’s journey through Civil War and the Cold War

The Greek physicist Achilles Papapetrou is today almost forgotten, although
he belongs to the top ten of Greek physicists of the twenty century and he
had an unusual life story. Born in North Greece he was educated as engineer
in the Technical University of Athens. In 1934 he moved with a fellowship to Germany, where
wrote a PhD thesis in cristallography with Peter Paul Ewald at the TH
Stuttgart. Later his research interests moved from cristallography to Einstein’s theory of relativity and he was engaged with its studyd as Professor ofPhysics at the National Technical University in Athens. As a leftist he
was soon troubled by Greek’s odyssey and tragic in the 1940ies - the
German occupation, and Civil War –, lost his job and finally he was forced to immigrate in
1946. With the help of his mentor Ewald he could get fellowships
in Dublin and Manchester, before East Germany’s Academy of Sciences
offered him a promising job in 1952. There he worked until the erection
of Berlin Wall in 1961, when he moved to Paris. There he could continue
his research on gravitational physics at the CNRS, becoming finally director
of the Institute Poincare. This presentation will give a report of Papapetrou’s
life and work in the social and the political context of the second half of the twentieth century.


Presenting author: 

Additional authors: 

George Vlahakis