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The foundation of the Institut für Theoretische und Angewandte Physik can be traced back to Richard Koch. He lectured at the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart (TH) from 1891 to 1919 in experimental physics, meteorology, and mathematical physics (or theoretical physics, as it was called from 1898 on). He was succeeded by Max Abraham who held a chair in Theoretical Physics in the winter semester 1919/20 and by Erich Regener who held a full chair in Physics in the summer semester in 1920. Regener was also in charge of the physics department of the university, which at that time was located in the centre of Stuttgart at Wiederholdstrasse. In 1921 he introduced diploma examination regulations which for the first time made it possible for students to graduate in physics with the "Diplom" (Dipl. Ing.) degree. He also took the initiative to establish a chair for Theoretical Physics in Stuttgart. In 1920 Erwin Schrödinger joined the university as professor for Theoretical Physics.

After Schrödinger's departure Peter Paul Ewald was offered a "professor extraordinarius" position by the chair of Theoretical Physics on April 1, 1921. After he had refused an offer of a chair at the University of Münster, Ewald was appointed full professor at the Stuttgart University in 1922. However, he only was entitled for his person to carry the name "full professor"; his established post remained a "professor extraordinarius". In the course of negotiations in 1929 - he had been offered a chair at the Technical University of Hanover - Ewald succeeded in founding the Institute of Theoretical Physics and in converting his position into a full professorship. As director of the institute Ewald now had more equipment, he was more autonomous in matters of construction and budget, he had a separate building with more space and capabilities for experiments, and additionally in 1930 he acquired a new assistant position.

According to his own statement Ewald left Germany in 1937. In the winter semester of 1936/37 Ewald's presence was viewed as insulting to the leader of the so-called "Dozentenbund" (an association of the university lecturers of the National Socialists). Wilhelm Stortz, then rector of the university, therefore asked Ewald to leave the university with reference to his Jewish origins (according to the "Nürnberger Gesetze" - Nuremberg laws - Ewald was regarded as a "quarterjew"). However, it seems that Ewald emigrated rather for political reasons as he indicated during an interview in 1968: It was not so much the prevailing antisemitism that made him leave Germany, but rather the premonition that Germany might be involved in a war with England and other countries. He was afraid of having to work for Hitler. The fruitful collaboration as well as the intensive interchange between the faculties of physics and chemistry and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Metallforschung (Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Metals Research) were remarkable. One can see from the university calendars of the thirties that there was a great variety of lectures by authorized members, particularly in chemistry. The personal union of several institute leaders is also remarkable. One should name Richard Glocker, Georg Grube, and Ulrich Dehlinger in particular. It is worth mentioning that in 1935 the Department of Chemistry established the courses of studies in metallurgy and metals chemistry.

Ulrich Dehlinger, a theoretical physicist, was Ewald's successor. A second chair was established after the Second World War. It developed from the transformation of the chair of Technical Physics, the first chair holder of which was Erwin Fues.

The joint institute directed by Professors Fues and Dehlinger was named Institut für Theoretische und Angewandte Physik (Institute of Theoretical and Applied Physics, ITAP). Ewald had already been working in the field of applied physics. Coming from the Sommerfeld tradition, he had established experimental work for studying crystal structures and crystal plasticity at the ITAP.

The institute was located in downtown Stuttgart in the triangle-shaped area bounded by Azenbergstrasse, Wiederholdstrasse, and Seestrasse and was known as the "Crystal Shed". In 1959 Alfred Seeger was the first appointed professor of a chair of Solid State Physics. Further chairs were established, and a division of the ITAP seemed reasonable. Thus, the Institut für Theoretische Physik (Institute for Theoretical Physics) with three chairs and the ITAP with two chairs were formed. The latter still follows the tradition of Sommerfeld, Ewald, Fues, and Dehlinger by combining both experiment and theory in teaching and science.

Ulrich Dehlinger was succeeded in 1969 by Ekkehart Kröner and in 1985 by Hans-Rainer Trebin. Two chairs were established following Alfred Seeger's departure, namely, the Experimentelle Festkörperphysik (Experimental Physics) and the Theoretische Festkörperphysik (Theoretical Solid State Physics). Therefore, the ITAP now contains three chairs:

  1. Theoretische und Angewandte Physik, headed by Prof. Dr. Hans-Rainer Trebin
  2. Experimentelle Festkörperphysik, headed by Prof. Dr. H. Dosch, Prof. Seeger's successor
  3. Theoretische Festkörperphysik, headed by Prof. Dr. Siegfried Dietrich

At present the director-in-charge of ITAP is Prof. Trebin.