Max Planck was born on April 23, 1858 in Kiel, Germany. His father was a Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Kiel. Max was a gifted pianist and at one point considered taking up a professional music career.
Max studied at the University of Munich as well as the University of Berlin, learning under teachers such as Kirchhoff and Helmholtz. Max received his philosophy doctorate at the University of Munich in 1879 and took up a position there as Privatdozent until 1885, when he was made Associate Professor of Theoretical Physics at Kiel. In 1889 he was chosen to succeed Kirchhoff as a professor at the University of Berlin. He stayed there until 1926, when he retired and became the President of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Promotion of Science until 1937.
Max's earliest research was in thermodynamics and he published papers on entropy, thermoelectricity, and dilute solutions. In 1900, he published a paper that included a derivation of the relationship between energy and the frequency of radiation. The basic idea behind his theory was that the energy emitted by resonators could only be of discrete quantities, or quanta, and founded the basis for quantum theory. The theory was a turning point in physics, ending the classical period in which values could be determined exactly (the position of an electron at a given time is based on probability).
During World War 2, Planck was faced with an ethical dilemma. He disapproved of the government's treatment of minorities, but felt it was his duty to remain in his country. His home was destroyed by bombing near the end of the war and went through much trouble as a result.
Max was married twice, once to a childhood friend named Marie Merck, who died in 1909, and second to her cousin Marga von Hosslin. He had five children during that time, but three of them died at a young age, leaving him with two sons. However, one of them was executed for conspiring in the assassination attempt against Hitler.
Max died in Gottingen on October 3, 1947. Today he is remembered as one of the founders of modern physics and quantum theory.