## A brief history of theoretical physics in Göttingen |

Woldemar Voigt |

Max Born (ca. 1925) |

Werner Heisenberg (ca. 1926) |

It was Werner Heisenberg who extracted a mathematical formalism from the observed energy spectrum of simple atoms allowing the calculation of measurable quantities like frequency, intensity, and polarization of the radiation without recourse to a specific model. Born saw the underlying mathematical structure (matrices, operators); his young coworkers Heisenberg and Jordan together with him cast it into (quantum-) matrix mechanics. In 1926 Schrödinger suggested (quantum-) wave mechanics, which was intended to describe matter waves in the sense of De Broglie.

However, Born showed that Schrödinger's wave function is connected with a probabilistic interpretation providing the probability density for the position of a particle. Born's probability interpretation and Heisenberg's uncertainty relation have changed our understanding of nature in a revolutionary way.

Both Werner Heisenberg and Max Born received the Nobel price (1932, 1954).

Wellenmechanische Bilder der Wasserstoffatoms
in vier verschiedenen Anregungszuständen:Die Helligkeit ist ein Maß für die Warscheinlichkeitsdichte, ein Elektron an diesem Ort anzutreffen. |

By reading the names of members and guests of the Institute for Theoretical Physics in the 20ies and 30ies like Pauli, Hückel, Nordheim, Fermi, London, Hund, Heitler, Fock, Wigner, Herzberg, Mrs. Göppert (-Meyer), Ehrenfest, Oppenheimer, Delbrück, Weisskopf, Bloch and Teller (among others) we understand why these years are called the golden years of the Göttingen Institute. Of remarkable importance for physics at the time was the interaction of theoreticians with experimental physicists in Göttingen like Robert Pohl and James Franck, their renowned colleague in fluid mechanics Ludwig Prandtl as well as with mathematicians like Hilbert, Klein, Runge and Weyl.

Maria Göppert-Mayer |

Max Reich, Max Born,James Frank, Robert Pohl |

As a consequence of political discussions about the dramatic lack of educational facilities at the university level, in the 60ies German universities could expand considerably. For Göttingen, according to Hund's motto "small but excellent" this brought only a modest increase in academic positions from one full professor (Hund) and one associate professor (H. Steinwedel) to three full professorships and a number of assistants to them. They were filled by Max Kohler, a student of von Laue, working both in transport theory and alternative theories of gravitation, and by the subsequent receivers of the highest honour of the German Physical Society, the Max-Planck-Medal, Gerhard Lüders and Hans-Jürgen Borchers. Besides the physics of condensed matter and, for some time, nuclear physics, now quantum field theory emerged as a main working subject in the Institute. Highlights of work in this field were the TCP-theorem by Pauli and Lüders and the so-called Borcher's classes of axiomatic quantum field theory.

jh, Last modified: Fri Nov 8 11:54:38 CET 2002