Werner Heisenberg

From Metapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Werner Heisenberg

Prof. Dr. phil. habil. Dr. h. c. mult.[1] Werner Heisenberg
Born 5 December 1901(1901-12-05)
Würzburg, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire
Died 1 February 1976 (aged 74)
Munich, Bavaria, West Germany
Fields Theoretical physics
Alma mater
Thesis Über Stabilität und Turbulenz von Flüssigkeitsströmen (On stability and turbulence of liquid flows) (1923)
Doctoral advisor Arnold Sommerfeld
Other academic advisors
Doctoral students
Other notable students
Notable awards
  • Matteucci Medal (1929)
  • Barnard Medal for Meritorious Service to Science (1930)
  • Nobel Prize in Physics (1932)
  • Max Planck Medal of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (1933)
  • Kopernikus-Preis der Universität Königsberg (1943)
  • Foreign Member of the Royal Society (1955)
  • Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts (1957)
  • Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (1961)
  • Niels Bohr International Gold Medal (1970)
  • Romano-Guardini-Preis (1973)
Spouse ∞ 29 April 1937
Elisabeth "Li" Therese Viktoria Schumacher;
7 children:
  • Anna Maria and Wolfgang, twins b. 8 January 1938
  • Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Jochen Hermann, b. 1939
  • Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Dr. h. c. Martin, b. 1940
  • Barbara, b. 1942
  • Christine, b. 1944
  • Verena, b. 1950

Werner Karl Heisenberg (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist and is, together with Erwin Schrödinger (Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933[2]), considered the father of quantum mechanics.[3] He is known for the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which he published in 1927. Heisenberg was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the creation of quantum mechanics, the application of which has, inter alia, led to the discovery of the allotropic forms of hydrogen". He later lived in the summers in Urfeld am Walchensee, Gemeinde Kochel am See (1939–1976), neighbor and friend of Colin Ross.[4]


From left to right: Brother Erwin August Nikolaus Heisenberg (1900–1965), studied chemistry after WWI, father Hauptmann der Reserve Prof. Dr. phil. Ernst August Heisenberg (1869–1930), a reserve infantry officer of the Infanterie-Regiment „Herzog Friedrich Wilhelm von Braunschweig“ (Ostfriesisches) Nr. 78 in WWI, and Werner Karl Heisenberg.
Werner Heisenberg and his wife Elisabeth, née Schumacher (1914–1998)
Grave, Munich Waldfriedhof (2021)
In 1911, Heisenberg entered the Maximilians-Gymnasium, of which his maternal grandfather was rector. There he displayed an outstanding talent for mathematics. By the time of his final examinations (Abitur), he had taught himself calculus, had explored the properties of elliptic functions. and had attempted to publish a paper on number theory. Heisenberg entered the University of Munich in 1920, intending to study pure mathematics. Following the refusal of mathematics professor Ferdinand von Lindemann to admit Heisenberg to his seminar for advanced students, Heisenberg’s father arranged an interview with the professor of theoretical physics, Arnold Sommerfeld, who tentatively accepted the ambitious student into his advanced seminar. Heisenberg received his doctorate under Sommerfeld in 1923—over the objections of Wilhelm Wien. the professor of experimental physics, who found the candidate deficient in his field. Heisenberg’s dissertation involved an approximate solution of the complicated equations governing the onset of hydrodynamic turbulence. When Heisenberg entered the University of Munich, theoretical physics, although it had attained recognition through the efforts of the older generation, was overshadowed by the work of experimentalists like Wien. Sommerfeld’s institute was one of the few, mainly in Germany, where theoretical atomic physics was pursued, and the only German institute concerned with the entire quantum theory of atomic spectroscopy. By 1920, atomic structure, the properties of light, and spectroscopy had become focuses of research on quantum atomic theory. This theory, formulated by Niels Bohr in 1913, regarded atomic motions as governed by integral quanta of energy and momenta. Transitions between quantum states involved the emission or absorption of monochromatic radiation of frequency proportional to the change of energy. During the early 1920’s the mechanical properties of quantized models of atoms and molecules consisting of more than two particles disagreed with observed properties, and atomic spectra and their behavior in applied electric and magnetic fields displayed numerous inexplicable regularities and anomalies. The discovery of the Compton effect at the end of 1922 lent support to the light-quantum hypothesis, contradicting the well-established wave theory of light and raising the wave-particle dualism to a fundamental problem. During his studies and research at Munich, and subsequently at Göttingen with Max Born and at Copenhagen with Niels Bohr, Heisenberg became familiar with each of the above difficulties, as well as with the limitations of quantum theory and of the methods employed by each of his mentors. He also made the acquaintance of such young and brilliant theoretical physicists as Wolfgang Pauli, Enrico Fermi, and Paul Dirac, who would dominate atomic physics for at least a decade. Heisenberg, a leading representative of this group, is best known scientifically for his contributions to the creation and development of quantum mechanics.
As early as his first semester at Munich, Heisenberg displayed the audacity, optimism, and independence of thought and action that characterized his physics as well as his personal life during and immediately following World War I. While his father, a reserve infantry officer, was away from home for nearly the entire war, his sons were left increasingly on their own. A severe shortage of fuel and food forced the occasional closing of school and encouraged Heisenberg to educate himself. Weak from lack of food, he helped to bring in the summer of 1918. The loss of the war and the abdication of the monarchy caused revolutionary unrest throughout Germany. In Bavaria a socialist republic came to power in 1918, then was replaced in 1919 by a Bolshevik-oriented republic that was suppressed by troops dispatched from Berlin. During the sometimes heavy street fighting and the subsequent restoration of democratic socialist rule. Heisenberg supported the invading forces as part of a unit composed of boys from his gymnasium. Soon after the restoration of democratic socialism. Heisenberg was elected leader of a small group of younger boys from the earlier unit who became associated with the Bund Deutscher Neupfadfinder (New Boy Scouts). The New Boy Scouts Bündische Jugend strove for a renewal of supposedly decadent German personal and social life through the direct experience of nature and the uplifting beauties of Romantic poetry, music, and thought. Heisenberg’s comrades from these years remained among his favorite pastimes.[5]

Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2022

Werner Heisenberg was born on 5th December, 1901, at Würzburg. He was the son of Dr. August Heisenberg and his wife Annie Wecklein. His father later became Professor of the Middle and Modern Greek languages in the University of Munich. It was probably due to his influence that Heisenberg remarked, when the Japanese physicist Yukawa discovered the particle now known as the meson and the term “mesotron” was proposed for it, that the Greek word “mesos” has no “tr” in it, with the result that the name “mesotron” was changed to “meson”. Heisenberg went to the Maximilian school at Munich until 1920, when he went to the University of Munich to study physics under Sommerfeld, Wien, Pringsheim, and Rosenthal. During the winter of 1922-1923 he went to Göttingen to study physics under Max Born, Franck, and Hilbert. In 1923 he took his Ph.D. at the University of Munich and then became Assistant to Max Born at the University of Göttingen, and in 1924 he gained the venia legendi at that University. From 1924 until 1925 he worked, with a Rockefeller Grant, with Niels Bohr, at the University of Copenhagen, returning for the summer of 1925 to Göttingen. In 1926 he was appointed Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen under Niels Bohr and in 1927, when he was only 26, he was appointed Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Leipzig. In 1929 he went on a lecture tour to the United States, Japan, and India. In 1941 he was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of Berlin and Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics there. At the end of the Second World War he, and other German physicists, were taken prisoner by American troops and sent to England, but in 1946 he returned to Germany and reorganized, with his colleagues, the Institute for Physics at Göttingen. This Institute was, in 1948, renamed the Max Planck Institute for Physics.
In 1948 Heisenberg stayed for some months in Cambridge, England, to give lectures, and in 1950 and 1954 he was invited to lecture in the United States. In the winter of 1955-1956 he gave the Gifford Lectures at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, these lectures being subsequently published as a book. During 1955 Heisenberg was occupied with preparations for the removal of the Max Planck Institute for Physics to Munich. Still Director of this Institute, he went with it to Munich and in 1958 he was appointed Professor of Physics in the University of Munich. His Institute was then being renamed the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics. Heisenberg’s name will always be associated with his theory of quantum mechanics, published in 1925, when he was only 23 years old. For this theory and the applications of it which resulted especially in the discovery of allotropic forms of hydrogen, Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for 1932. His new theory was based only on what can be observed, that is to say, on the radiation emitted by the atom. We cannot, he said, always assign to an electron a position in space at a given time, nor follow it in its orbit, so that we cannot assume that the planetary orbits postulated by Niels Bohr actually exist. Mechanical quantities, such as position, velocity, etc. should be represented, not by ordinary numbers, but by abstract mathematical structures called “matrices” and he formulated his new theory in terms of matrix equations. Later Heisenberg stated his famous principle of uncertainty, which lays it down that the determination of the position and momentum of a mobile particle necessarily contains errors the product of which cannot be less than the quantum constant h and that, although these errors are negligible on the human scale, they cannot be ignored in studies of the atom. From 1957 onwards Heisenberg was interested in work on problems of plasma physics and thermonuclear processes, and also much work in close collaboration with the International Institute of Atomic Physics at Geneva. He was for several years Chairman of the Scientific Policy Committee of this Institute and subsequently remained a member of this Committee.
When he became, in 1953, President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, he did much to further the policy of this Foundation, which was to invite scientists from other countries to Germany and to help them to work there. Since 1953 his own theoretical work was concentrated on the unified field theory of elementary particles which seems to him to be the key to an understanding of the physics of elementary particles. Apart from many medals and prizes, Heisenberg received an honorary doctorate of the University of Bruxelles, of the Technological University Karlsruhe, and recently (1964) of the University of Budapest; he is also recipient of the Order of Merit of Bavaria, and the Grand Cross for Federal Services with Star (Germany). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and a Knight of the Order of Merit (Peace Class). He is a member of the Academies of Sciences of Göttingen, Bavaria, Saxony, Prussia, Sweden, Rumania, Norway, Spain, The Netherlands, Rome (Pontificial), the German Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (Halle), the Accademia dei Lincei (Rome), and the American Academy of Sciences. During 1949-1951 he was President of the Deutsche Forschungsrat (German Research Council) and in 1953 he became President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. One of his hobbies is classical music: he is a distinguished pianist. In 1937 Heisenberg married Elisabeth Schumacher. They have seven children, and live in Munich.[6]


  • Uncertainty principle
  • Copenhagen interpretation
  • Heisenberg cut
  • Heisenberg's entryway to matrix mechanics
  • Heisenberg ferromagnet
  • Heisenberg group
  • Heisenberg limit
  • Heisenberg's microscope
  • Heisenberg model (classical)
  • Heisenberg model (quantum)
  • Heisenberg picture
  • Heisenberg–Langevin equations
  • Euler-Heisenberg Lagrangian
  • Kramers-Heisenberg formula
  • Isospin
  • Matrix mechanics
  • Bootstrap model
  • C*-algebra
  • Exchange force
  • Exchange interaction
  • Electron hole theory
  • Mott problem
  • Quantum fluctuation
  • Quantum spacetime
  • Resonance (chemistry)
  • S-matrix
  • S-matrix theory
  • Proton–neutron model of the nucleus
  • Vacuum polarization
  • Wave function collapse
  • German nuclear weapon project (Uranprojekt)


  • "Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature; it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves; it describes nature as exposed to our method of questioning."

Awards, decorations and honours (small excerpt)

  • Honorary doctorates from the University of Brussels, the Technological University of Karlsruhe, and Eötvös Loránd University.
  • Bavarian Order of Merit
  • Romano Guardini Prize
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany with Star and Sash (1964)
    • Großes Verdienstkreuz des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland mit Stern und Schulterband
  • Knight of the Order of Merit (Civil Class)
  • Member of the American Philosophical Society in 1937
  • Elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 1955
  • Member of the Academies of Sciences of Göttingen, Bavaria, Saxony, Prussia, Sweden, Romania, Norway, Spain, The Netherlands (1939), Rome (Pontifical), the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (Halle), the Accademia dei Lincei (Rome), and the American Academy of Sciences (1958).

Further reading

External link


  1. Dr. h. c. mult. is the abbreviation for Doctor honoris causa multiplex, the academic Latein term for having more than one honorary doctorate.
  3. In the 1920s, physicists were trying to apply Max Planck's concept of energy quanta to the atom and its constituents. By the end of the decade Erwin Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg had invented the new quantum theory of physics. The Physical Institute of the University of Zürich published Schrödinger's lectures on Wave Mechanics (the first from 27 January 1926) and in 1930 Heisenberg's book The physical principles of the quantum theory appeared.
  4. In June 1939, Heisenberg bought a summer home, once owned by artist Lovis Corinth, for his family in Urfeld am Walchensee, in southern Germany. The Ross and Heisenberg families came together often. The place where Heisenberg lived was known by the so-called »Alsos« commando, that wanted to get hold of those scientists, who were working on a suspected German atomic bomb. The Alsos Mission was an organized effort by a team of British and United States military, scientific, and intelligence personnel to discover enemy scientific developments during World War II. Its chief focus was on the German nuclear energy project, but it also investigated chemical and biological weapons and the means to deliver them. They also took most of the senior German research personnel into custody, including Otto Hahn, Max von Laue, Werner Heisenberg and Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker. German scientists that had been captured by the Alsos Mission were held in several camps, separate from other prisoners of war. After 8 May 1945, SHAEF decided to concentrate them in an internment camp at Kransberg Castle, codenamed "Dustbin", as part of Operation Epsilon. At Welsh's instigation, ten of the nuclear physicists, Bagge, Diebner, Gerlach, Hahn, Harteck, Heisenberg, Korsching, von Laue, von Weizsäcker and Wirtz, were brought to England. They were accommodated between 3 July 1945 and 3 January 1946 at Farm Hall, a house in Godmanchester, near Cambridge, that had been used by MI6 and SOE agents preparing to be flown into occupied Europe from nearby RAF Tempsford. The premises were thoroughly bugged to determine how close the German nuclear project had been to constructing an atomic bomb by listening in to their conversations, and transcripts of their conversations were sent to Groves.
  5. Heisenberg, Werner Karl
  6. This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. Source: Werner Heisenberg