Wolfgang Max Paul Gaede (* 25. Mai 1878 in Lehe; † 24. Juni 1945 in München) was a physicist and a pioneer of vacuum technology.
Gaede, son of a Prussian colonel, took up medical studies at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau in 1897, but soon he changed over to the Department of Physics, where he received his doctorate in 1901 with the topic "On the Change of the specific Heat of Metals with Temperature". Subsequent research on the Volta effect in vacuum, however, was unsuccessful, since the vacuum to be achieved with the pump technology of these days was not sufficient for his investigations. This was the reason for Gaede to focus his research on vacuum technology. He invented the rotating high-vacuum mercury pump, which he introduced to his science colleagues in 1905 at a congress in Meran. In 1909 he wrote his habilitation thesis in Freiburg on "The external Friction of the Gases".
In 1913 Gaede received a professorship at the University of Freiburg. Over the next six years, he invented the molecular pump and a mercury diffusion pump. In 1919 he moved to the Technical University of Karlsruhe as a professor of experimental physics, where he worked in the following research areas:
• vacuum technology
• radio broadcasting technologies
• processes for the production of pure hydrogen and mercury
• lightning protection equipment
• movement of liquids in a rotating hollow ring
In 1933/34 Gaede was denounced by two employees to the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) for having described the National Socialists as "child heads". He then had to retire, although all allegations proved void. Despite this incident, he was awarded the Werner von Siemens Ring in 1934. He also received various international awards in the following years.
A consulting contract with the company E. Leybold's Successors in Cologne, which existed from 1906 until his death, enabled him to continue his research in his private laboratory - first in Karlsruhe, later in Munich. Among other things, he developed the gas ballast equipment for vacuum pumps to convey condensable vapours continuously.
Gaede was the owner of almost 40 patents in Germany, in addition to numerous ones abroad. The call to return to the University in Karlsruhe after the end of the second world war, did not reach Gaede anymore.
Every year, the GAEDE Foundation awards a prize for outstanding research achievements in the field of vacuum-assisted sciences to young scientists. The Gaede archive which is connected to the foundation manages his heritage. It is located at the headquarters of Leybold GmbH in Cologne, which emerged from E. Leybold's Successors. The Gaede archive is accessible to everyone.
• The Elliot Cresson Gold Medal of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia
• The Duddell Medal of the Physical Society of London.
• A lecture hall of the Karlsruhe University was named after him in 1969
• The Wolfgang-Gaede-Strasse on the university campus in Karlsruhe was named after him in 1993.
• The GAEDE Foundation bears his name.