The Birth of Quantum Mechanics | Quantum Science Philippines
Quantum Science Philippines

The Birth of Quantum Mechanics


” The Heisenberg-Bohr concepts leave us all breathless, and have made a deep impression on all theoretically oriented people.”           -Albert Einstein, 1926


The period 1905 to 1925 was a great time for the world’s leading physicists in the race to understand the quantum nature of matter. To explain so many curious and undigestible phenomena about radiation, atoms, molecules and solid materials, some groups worked together and sometimes compete with another. The climax happened around 1925 when the structure of quantum mechanics was finally laid down.

Louis de Broglie,1887-1961

Louis de Broglie

This started with Louis de Broglie‘s conjecture in 1924 that particle-like objects such as electrons should display wave properties. Indeed if light which is initially thought to be a wave can behave as a particle or quantum, why not those objects which we normally conceive of as particles display wave-like properties? Why not indeed?

Erwin Schrodinger,1887-1961

Erwin Schrodinger

Shortly after de Broglie introduced his concept of matter waves, Erwin Schrodinger proposed an answer to the question of what happens to the matter waves when a force acts on it. He came up with a wave equation now known as Schrodinger’s Equation that lies at the heart of quantum mechanics.

Given a particle and the force that acts on it, Schrodinger’s equation  gives the possible waves associated with this particle at a given position and time. And this is designated by the hardest working symbol in modern physics: the wave function .

Max Born,1882-1970

Max Born

That Schrodinger would be mistaken in the physical interepretation of the wave function is only one of  the many curious twists in this very interesting and engaging conversation.  What took Max Born to interpret the absolute square of as probability density for finding electrons and not  matter density as  Schrodinger intimated?

Werner Heisenberg,1901-1976

Werner Heisenberg

Pascual Jordan,1902-1980

Pascual Jordan

Months before Schrodinger was to write down his famous equation, Max Born, with his young students Werner Heisenberg and Pascual Jordan, already created  an entirely different approach from that of Schrodinger.  The matrix formulation of quantum mechanics developed by Born’s group in Gottingen, Germany described matter  and radiation as discrete particles.

The two formulations of quantum mechanics were thought to be different but they were quickly proved to be equivalent by Schrodinger himself.  Soon thereafter, Paul Dirac incorporated the special  theory of  relativity with quantum mechanics and the ‘quantum field theory’ was born.

Paul Dirac,1902-1985

Paul Dirac

8 Responses to “The Birth of Quantum Mechanics”

  1. james Says:

    isn’t it better to move the paragraph “That Schrodinger would be mistaken in the physical interepretation of the wave function…” just on the side of the picture of max born?

  2. Ancelie Says:

    It is worth knowing about those very important handsome guys behind quantum mechanics. This is a very informative article.

  3. simon Says:

    …a really comprehensive and concise article based on the papers of the “Giants of Physics”…

  4. Rash Says:

    I really like the story on how did the quantum mechanics(QM) begun. It surpassed all the obstacles or “antagonists” it experienced and how the QM people defended it passionately until the last breath of their life. Now, QM is continuing to grow and it gives more application for the technological advancement.

  5. Rowenchell Says:

    The article is nice but the pictures and the context are a bit scattered.

  6. Pearl Says:

    The article somehow gives us the insight on how Quantum Mechanics materialized and who’s who behind it. Its very amazing indeed.

  7. bien Says:

    This is really informative.. How Quantum Mechanics developed into a powerful world of science.

  8. deby Says:

    Its nice to be aware of its fundamentals and the people who started this huge concept as a part of scientific existence. great job

Leave a Reply