Nernst, Walther (1864-1941), a German physicist and chemist, considered a founder of physical chemistry. In 1906 Nernst established a heat theorem, sometimes known as the Third Law of Thermodynamics, which proved that a temperature of absolute zero (-459.67 F. or -273.15 C.) can never be reached. For the work that led to this discovery, he was awarded the 1920 Nobel Prize for chemistry. His other research included work on ionization, osmotic pressure, and the generation of current in the galvanic cell.

Nernst attended the universities of Zurich, Berlin, Graz, and Wrzburg. After serving as a professor at Gttingen, he became a professor of physical chemistry at the University of Berlin in 1905. From 1925 to 1933 he was director of the Institute for Physics at the University of Berlin.