2002 Born medal and prize

Professor Seigfried Dietrich

Professor Siegfried Dietrich

Max Plank Institute for Metals Research

Siegfired Dietrich was born in 1954 in Singen / Germany, studied physics at the universities of Constance (1973 – 1975), Munich (1975 – 1982), where he made both his diploma thesis (on the phase transitions of hydrogen in palladium) and his PhD thesis (on the field of theoretical description of critical phenomena in semi-infinite systems), under the supervision of Professor H Wagner.  After a postdoctoral stay at the University of Washington (with Professor M Schick) he earned the degree of Habilitation at the University of Munich 1986 (title of Habilitation thesis: “Wetting phenomena”; a related major review article appeared in 1988 in the series “Phase Transitions and Critical Phenomena”, Vol. 12, C Domb and J L Lebowitz, eds Academic Press: this is THE CLASSICAL REVIEW on the subject).  After tenured appointments as professor of theoretical physics (C3 category) at Würzburg (1987) and Mainz (1988) he got a chair (C4 category) at the University of Wuppertal, before he accepted the offer (in the year 2000) of a joint appointment between the University of Stuttgart and the Max Plank Institute of Metals Research, his current position.  He turned down other offers for chaired professorships: 1933: University of Freiburg, Germany; 1995: George Vineyard Distinguished Professorship, University of Missouri, Columbia.

Professor Dietrich did very pioneering research in the area of surface critical phenomena, extending the field-theoretical version of renormalisation group theory to anisotropic and inhomogeneous situations as encountered at free surfaces and interfaces.  This work (done together with H Wagner, H W Diehl and some students) was highlighted in the field, and still is of lasting value.  His later work on the order of wetting transitions (done together with M Schick, M Napiorkowski and others) and at interface Hamiltonians also was an important breakthrough which found great attention and created Professor Dietrich a high international reputation.

Excellent further papers clarified the information one can get from the cross section of x-rays and neutrons for scattering from surfaces under grazing incidence, the Casmir effect on thin film at criticality, and correlations in dipolar fluids.  A particular highlight of work, done in collaboration with Professor R Evans (Bristol) who stayed with Dietrich as an Alexander von Humboldt Senior Awardee, is the work on depleting interactions in hard sphere fluids and mixtures.  Also recent papers on the filling transition of a wedge, or the morphical phase transitions of thin films on chemically structured substrates (done together with Dr A O Parry, Imperial College London) are highlighted on the forefront of research.

Professor Dietrich now belongs to the top category of a dozen scientists that lead the field of the theory of fluids in inhomogeneous situations (surfaces, interfaces, wedges…).  Other leading scientists on this topics work in the UK (Professor Evans, Bristol; Dr Parry, London) and Professor Deitrich hence closely interacts with them.  He also plays an important role in the Liquids Section and Condensed Matter Section of the European Physical Society and takes an active part in the organising of resulting conferences, e.g. the Liquid Matter Conference planned for Constance in 2002 and the EPS Condensed Matter Conference to be held in Brighton on 2002.  Thus Professor Dietrich is very much concerned in improving the international collaboration between scientists, in the tradition of Max Born and interacts personally rather closely, with scientists from the UK himself.