|Mûller, Alexander K. (1927-)|
was born in Basle, Switzerland, on 20th April 1927. The first years of my
life were spent with my parents in Salzburg, Austria, where my father was
studying music. Hereafter, my mother and I moved to Dornach near Basle to
the home of my grandparents, and from there to Lugano in the italian-speaking
part of Switzerland. Here, I attended school and thus became fluent in the
My mother died when I was eleven years old, and I attended the Evangelical College in Schiers, situated in a mountain valley in eastern Switzerland. I remained there until I obtained my baccalaureate (Mature) seven years later. This means I arrived in Schiers just before the Second World War started, and left just after it terminated. This was indeed quite a unique situation for us youngsters. Here, in a neutral country, we followed the events of the war worldwide, even in discussion groups in the classes. These college years in Schiers were of significance for my career.
The school was liberal in the spirit of the nineteenth century, and intellectually quite demanding. We were also very active in sports, I especially so in alpine skiing. In my spare time, I became quite involved in building radios and was so fascinated that I really wanted to become an electrical engineer. However, in view of my abilities, my chemistry tutor, Dr. Saurer, eventually convinced me to study physics.
At the age of 19, I did my basic military training in the Swiss army. Upon its completion, I enrolled in the famous Physics and Mathematics Department of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich. Our freshman group was more than three times the normal size. We were called the "atombomb semester", as just prior to our enrollment nuclear weapons had been used for the first time, and many students had become interested in nuclear physics. The basic course was taught by Paul Scherrer and his vivid demonstrations had a lasting effect on my approach to physics. Other courses were in part not as illuminating, so that, despite good grades, I once seriously considered switching to electrical engineering. However, Dr. W. Kanzig, responsible for the advanced physics practicum, convinced me to continue. In the later semesters, Wolfgang Pauli, whose courses and examinations I took, formed and impressed me. He was truly a wise man with a deep understanding of nature and the human being. I did my diploma work under Prof. G. Busch on the Hall effect of grey tin, now known as a semimetal, and, prompted by his fine lectures, also became acquainted with modern solid-state physics.
After obtaining my diploma, following my interest in applications, I worked for one year in the Department of Industrial Research (AFIF) of the ETH on the Eidophor large-scale display system. Then I returned to Prof. Busch's group as an assistant and started my thesis on paramagnetic resonance (EPR). At one point, Dr. H. Granicher suggested I look into the, at that time, newly synthesized double-oxide SrTiO3. I found and identified the EPR lines of impurity present in Fe3+.
In spring of 1956, just before starting the latter work, Ingeborg Marie Louise Winkler became my wife. She has always had a substantial influence in giving me confidence in all my undertakings, and over the past 30 years has been my mentor and good companion, always showing interest in my work. Our son Eric, now a dentist, was born in the summer of 1957, six months before I submitted my thesis.
After my graduation in 1958, I accepted the offer of the Battelle Memorial Institute in Geneva to join the staff. I soon became the manager of a magnetic resonance group. Some of the more interesting investigations were conducted on layered compounds, especially on radiation damage in graphite and alkalimetal gra