The Hotel Metropole in Brussels distiguished as EPS Historic Site

By . Published on 15 December 2015 in:
December 2015, News, ,

On 24 October 2015, the European Physical Society [EPS], the Belgian Physical Society [BPS, short for ‘Belgische Natuurkundige Vereniging – Société Belge de Physique’] and the International Solvay Institutes [ISI] honoured the Hotel Metropole in Brussels as EPS Historic Site. At the initiative of Ernest Solvay, the Hotel Metropole hosted in 1911 the first Solvay Council where the foundations of Quantum Physics where laid. A commemorative plaque was unveiled in the lobby of the hotel by the President of the EPS, Christophe Rossel, and the President of BPS, Jef Ongena, following an academic session attended by 80 participants.

Christophe Rossel and Jef Ongena
after unveiling of the EPS Historic Site plaque

Welcome addresses were made by Mr. Freddy Thielemans, past-mayor and representative of the present-day mayor of Brussels, by Jef Ongena, President of BPS, Marc Henneaux, Director of ISI and by Jean-Marie Solvay as President of ISI and representing the Solvay family. They described briefly how the scientific and philanthropic legacy of Ernest Solvay has been taken up and continued over five Solvay generations. Christophe Rossel then presented EPS and the EPS Historic Site program. The much appreciated keynote address was entitled ‘The First Solvay Council on Physics: Legend and Facts’, delivered by Franklin Lambert from ISI and the Free University of Brussels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel – VUB).

The attendance included members of Belgian and European academic and political institutions. Guests of honour were the many descendants of participants to the historic Solvay Council: fourteen family members of the Nobel Laureates that were present in 1911, three descendants of Ernest Solvay, and Mr. Wielemans, heir to the family that founded this famous hotel.

The celebration was complemented by the publication of a European Physical Journal Special Topic issue entitled “The Early Solvay Councils and the Advent of the Quantum Era” (EPJ ST, Vol. 224, Nr 10, September 2015), edited by Franklin Lambert, Frits Berends and Michael Eckert. The articles are available online at As a unique memory of this unforgettable day, a HDTV recording is made from the event, and will be made available soon at the websites of  BPS, EPS and ISI.

The commemorative plaque reads:

European Physical Society – EPS Historic Site

The Hotel Metropole

From 30 October to 3 November 1911, the Hotel Metropole was the venue of the Solvay Council, dedicated to what soon would be called “The Theory of Radiation and the Quanta”.

This was the first of a series of meetings, called “Solvay Conferences”, named after Ernest Solvay, a wealthy Belgian industrialist and scientific philanthropist, who issued the invitations to this first meeting.

This was a time when the foundations of physics were being shaken by the emergence of the quantum theory. The participants were 23 eminent scientists including Einstein, Kamerlingh Onnes, Lorentz, Nernst, Perrin, Planck, Poincaré, Rutherford, Skłodowska-Curie, Sommerfeld and Wien.

Their insights and exchange of ideas had a profound influence on the development of physics and chemistry in the twentieth century.

Solvay Council 1911
Solvay Council 1911

Solvay Council 1911

Seated (L-R): W. Nernst, M. Brillouin, E. Solvay, H. Lorentz, E. Warburg, J. Perrin, W. Wien, M. Skłodowska-Curie, and H. Poincaré. Standing (L-R): R. Goldschmidt, M. Planck, H. Rubens, A. Sommerfeld, F. Lindemann, M. de Broglie, M. Knudsen, F. Hasenöhrl, G. Hostelet, E. Herzen, J.H. Jeans, E. Rutherford, H. Kamerlingh Onnes, A. Einstein and P. Langevin.
Right-click to enlarge image

Partial reenactment of the historic picture of the first Solvay Council 1911
Partial reenactment of the historic picture of the first Solvay Council 1911

Partial reenactment of the historic picture of the first Solvay Council 1911

1 Dieter Klingmüller [W. Nernst (4)]
2 Ursula Klingmüller [W. Nernst (4)]
3 Jean-Marie Solvay [E. Solvay (5)]
4 Anna de Haas [H. Lorentz (4)]
5 Yann Lapicque [J.-B. Perrin (4)
6 Françoise Chapuis [J.-B. Perrin (3)]
7 Paul Siebertz [W. Wien (3)]
8 Maria Rüchardt [W. Wien (3)]
9 Pierre Joliot [M. Curie (3)]
10 Florian Baier [A. Sommerfeld (4)]
11 Monika Baier [A. Sommerfeld (3)]
12 Nathalie Ferrard [A. Einstein*]
13 Mary Fowler [E. Rutherford (4)]
14 Catherine Kamerlingh Onnes (4)
15 Jeanne Kamerlingh Onnes (4)

(3) granddaughter or grandson
(4) great granddaughter or -grandson
(5) great great granddaughter or -grandson
* (5) of Caesar Koch, uncle of A.E.
Right-click to enlarge image

About EPS Historic sites

The EPS Historic Sites Award commemorates places in Europe that are important for the development and the history of physics. EPS historic sites are locations (laboratories, buildings, institutions, universities, towns, etc.) associated with an event, discovery, research or body of work, by one or more individuals, that made important, exceptional contributions to physics.

Visit the EPS website to view all the EPS Historic Sites:

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