Physics in Zürich – historical sites

Long time, no blog!  Yes, I’ve been insanely busy.  One thing I was busy doing was preparing for QIP 2010 that will take place in Zürich in January.  Now that I’ve made my reservations, I’m compiling a list of places in and around the city that have played a role in the history of physics.  Notably, of course, both Einstein and Pauli spent a great deal of time in Zürich.  Einstein received his PhD from the Universität Zürich and later taught at ETH (the Swiss Federal Technical Institute).  Pauli taught at ETH for many years prior to WWII and returned to Zürich after the war.  He died in Rotkreuz Hospital in Zürich.  In addition to Einstein and Pauli, Zürich was also the home (and final resting place) of the author James Joyce who first coined the term ‘quark’ that was later used by Murray Gell-Mann as a name for the now famous sub-atomic particle (apparently Gell-Mann had wanted to name it after the sound a duck makes and then stumbled across Joyce’s word while reading Finnegan’s Wake).

In my online searching for interesting physics-related sites I set about attempting to find out where these folks lived while they were in Zürich so that I can visit there myself come January.  To my surprise and pleasure the City Archives not only have a list of all of Einstein’s addresses while in Zürich, but they also include photographs of the homes.  While there were no entries listed for Pauli, I was able to find Joyce’s address.  Joyce also happens to be buried in the historic Fluntern Cemetery, thus a visit to his grave is fairly simple.  Finding Pauli’s final resting place has proven a bit difficult as have his homes though I did find out that ETH’s new suburban campus has named a street after him (Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse).  In an Editorial in Physics in Perspective from 1999, John Rigden mentions that he visited Pauli’s grave in Zürich, but fails to mention where it is despite the fact that he also mentioned that the late Mrs. Pauli, who was alive at the time, was “delighted” someone was visiting her husband’s grave.

So, if any of you fair readers are familiar with Zürich and happen to know where Pauli is buried and/or where he lived, please let me know.  If you know any other physics-related historic sites (aside from ETH and the Universität Zürich) please post them here.


3 thoughts on “Physics in Zürich – historical sites

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  1. Wolfgang Pauli was a citizen of Zollikon and seems to be buried there according to this Google query (hope the links work):
    For a map of the cemetery:,+z%C3%BCrich-zollikon&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=48.956293,89.560547&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Friedhofstrasse,+8702+Zollikon,+Z%C3%BCrich,+Schweiz&ll=47.336827,8.581588&spn=0.002577,0.005466&t=h&z=18
    Sorry for the somewhat vague references.
    As an interesting sidenote: Zollikon is part of the “Goldküste” (gold coast), one of the most affluent neighborhoods of Switzerland. Amusingly, the word “gold” was originally not meant to refer to wealth, but to the fact that the coast on this side of the Zürichsee is exposed to sunlight in the evening. During winter, the opposite coast often remains in the shadows of the hills. Logic dictates that it is called “Pfnüselküste”, “Pfnüsel” being a Swiss German word for “cold” as in “head cold” or “common cold”.

    Welcome to Switzerland

  2. Frederic,

    Thanks for the links! John Rigden got back to me and confirmed that Pauli is indeed buried in Zollikon cemetery, right next to the mathematician Heinz Hopf.

    I’ve made a tentative map of the sites using Google Maps:

    Interesting note about Zollikon being the “Gold Coast.” I wonder if that was the original use of that phrase.


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