Walther Ritz

Walther Ritz
Born (1878-02-22)22 February 1878
Sion, Switzerland
Died 7 July 1909(1909-07-07) (aged 31)
Notable awards Leconte Prize (1909)

Walther Ritz (22 February 1878 – 7 July 1909) was a Swiss theoretical physicist.

His father, Raphael Ritz, a native of Valais, was a well-known landscape and interior scenes artist. His mother was the daughter of the engineer Noerdlinger of Tübingen. Ritz studied in Zurich and Göttingen. He is most famous for his work with Johannes Rydberg on the Rydberg–Ritz combination principle. Ritz is also known for the variational method named after him, the Ritz method. Ritz died in 1909, at the age of 31. According to Forman's Dictionary of Scientific Biography,[1] Ritz contracted tuberculosis in 1900, which led to his death in 1909. According to Ritz's collected works (Œuvres)[2] the disease was pleurisy.

Criticism of Maxwell–Lorentz electromagnetic theory

Not so well known is the fact that in 1908 Ritz produced a lengthy criticism[3] of Maxwell–Lorentz electromagnetic theory, in which he contended that the theory's connection with the luminescent ether (see Lorentz ether theory) made it "essentially inappropriate to express the comprehensive laws for the propagation of electrodynamic actions."

Ritz pointed out seven problems with Maxwell–Lorentz electromagnetic field equations:

Instead he indicated that light is not propagated (in a medium) but is projected.


  1. Forman, P., Dictionary of Scientific Biography XI, 475, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1975.
  2. Gesammelte Werke – Walther Ritz – OEuvres, Societe suisse de physique, Gauthier-Villars, Paris, 1911, page viii.
  3. Ritz, Walter (1908), "Recherches critiques sur l'Électrodynamique Générale", Annales de Chimie et de Physique 13: 145–275, Page 172.
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