Max Dieckmann 1882 - 1960

The founder of aeronautical radio research in the Munich area between 1908 and 1944 was Professor Max Dieckmann, head of the Gräfelfing Experimental Station for Wireless Telegraphy and Air Electricity (DVG). Dieckmann's work for DLR's predecessor organisation, the DVG, began as early as 1908, when he – then an assistant at the Technical University of Munich – took it upon himself to rent a meadow on the outskirts of Munich in Gräfelfing in order to carry out air-electric measurements in a small wooden hut.

Max Dieckmann 1882-1960

Dieckmann was born on 5 July 1882 in Hermannsacker near Stollberg in the Harz Mountains. After leaving school in Leipzig, he studied mathematics, chemistry, experimental physics and general electrical engineering in Göttingen and Leipzig, and then worked on the practice of air-electric measurements at the Technical University of Munich. In 1905 Dieckmann went to the Kaiser Wilhelm University in Strasbourg to study with Ferdinand Braun, who was working on wireless telegraphy. Max Dieckmann completed his doctorate with him in 1907 with a thesis on high-frequency technology.

From the beginning of his work at the Technical University of Munich and in Gräfelfing, Dieckmann's work was closely linked to aviation; until the outbreak of the First World War, he worked on studies for Zeppelin airships as well as expanding the practical training centre in Gräfelfing. In 1912, telegrams were sent from the airship Victoria Luise to private recipients for the first time. Dieckmann's achievements included the development of suitable balloon materials that did not generate frictional electricity when subjected to mechanical stress, and the proof that wireless telegraphy could be used in hydrogen-fuelled airships without the previously feared risk of explosion.

During the war, Max Dieckmann worked as a volunteer for the intelligence service in Munich, from 1916 as head of the scientific department of the Prussian Inspection of Airship Troops, and from the end of 1917 as head of the tube laboratory of the Experimental Department of Aviation Intelligence in Döberitz. During this time he successfully integrated his Gräfelfing station into the work; the problems of continuing the private test station after the end of the war were solved by accepting an associate professorship with a teaching assignment in 1920, which enabled the Gräfelfing test station to be expanded for teaching and research. In 1925 Dieckmann built a television set using the Braun tube and developed photoelectric scanning and the first purely electronic picture tube. He introduced wireless transmission of picture signals and synchronising currents, paving the way for the development of general television broadcasting.

Attempts by the German Aviation Research Institute (Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt, DVL) in Berlin-Adlershof to recruit Dieckmann in 1926 for a newly established department for high-frequency research failed due to the interest of the Technical University of Munich, which refused to release him. Instead, in 1927, Dieckmann became a member of the technical advisory board of the DVL. In 1936, he was appointed extraordinary professor at the Technical University of Munich, where the Institute of Radio Technology and Aeronautical Radio Engineering was set up for him. In this capacity, he founded the Oberpfaffenhofen Aeronautical Radio Research Institute in 1937, into which the DVG was incorporated. This institute, headed by Dieckmann, in turn became the Institute for Aircraft Radio and Microwaves of the DVL in Oberpfaffenhofen after the war.

Max Dieckmann's ability to combine theory and practice, research and development, and to motivate his staff to work as a team, led to the international recognition of the institutions he headed. After the war, Dieckmann went to the USA, to Wright-Patterson Airfield in Ohio, a research centre similar to the FFO. After a year he returned to Germany for health reasons. He was given emeritus status in 1958. Max Dieckmann died in Gräfelfing on 28 July 1960.


Berndorfer, F.: Prof. Dr Dieckmann 60 years, in: Hochfrequenztechnik und Elektroakustik. Jahrbuch der drahtlosen Telegraphie und Telephonie, Vol. 60. Issue 1, July 1942, p. 1f.

Handel, Paul Freiherr von: Ansprache zum 60. Geburtstags des Ordentlichen Mitglieds Max Dieckmann, in: Jahrbuch der Deutschen Akademie der Luftfahrtforschung 1942/1943, pp. 206-210.

Zetzmann, Hans, J.: Max Dieckmann, in: Yearbook 1960 of the WGL, pp. 484-486.

Zetzmann, Hans, J.: Zur Würdigung von Professor Dr phil. nat. Max Dieckmann, in: Festschrift zum 50jährigen Bestehen der DVL, 1962, pp. 126-127.