Wilhelm Wien studied mathematics and natural sciences in Göttingen and went on to study mathematics and physics in Berlin. From 1883 to 1885 he worked in Hermann von Helmholtz's laboratory and was awarded his doctorate in 1886. In 1892 he qualified as a professor at Berliner Universität, but left after accepting a professorship in Aachen.
Wien researched the relationship between the maximum intensity of radiation in relation to the temperature of the radiator. He formulated the displacement law that is named after him in 1893/94 and Wien's radiation law in 1896. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in this field in 1911.