In Memoriam: Prof. Dr. Günter Scharf, Professor Emeritus for theoretical physics

Deceased on August 16, 2020 at the age of 82

Günter Robert Scharf was full professor of theoretical physics at the University of Zurich from 1970 to 2006. In particular, he was a capacity in mathematical physics.

Guenter Scharf


Günter Scharf was born on September 19, 1938 in Nordhausen (Thuringia, in the later GDR). In 1958, he began studying physics in Göttingen and moved to Giessen one year later. During this time, a serious motorcycle accident led to the loss of a leg, the consequences of which Günter Scharf overcame with iron discipline. With a scholarship abroad he continued his studies at the ETH Zurich, where he graduated in 1962 under Prof. Res Jost. In 1965 Scharf received his doctorate under Prof. Armin Thellung at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Zurich. His dissertation on near-periodic potentials helped to establish his reputation as a mathematically precise theoretical physicist. In 1969 he was awarded his habilitation and in 1970 he was appointed professor of theoretical physics at the University of Zurich. In 2006 he was retired, but remained active as a researcher until shortly before his death.

Günter Scharf's work was characterized by mathematical clarity, fundamental physics questions and a large range of topics. Thus, he often advanced some areas of theoretical physics off the tracks of general trends. These include above all his work on the renormalization of gauge theories and on gravitation, in which he decisively developed the methodology of Epstein and Glaser. His studies on the linearized Boltzmann equation, the theory of lasers and spin waves in ferromagnetic materials were also influential.

Scharf's lectures were distinguished by clarity of terms and connections. His books on classical and quantized field theories impress with their clear and intuitive approach and have become standard works for many researchers. He was always a reliable supervisor for his diploma and doctoral students.

Another, perhaps surprising side of Scharf was his relationship to applied physics. In recent years, he has worked with cardiologists and engineers to develop a novel system for the localization of cardiac arrhythmias, from which a successful start-up company has emerged.

Daniel Wyler