Max Born bigraphy, stories - A German-British mathematician and physicist

Max Born : biography

11 December 1882 - 05 January 1970

Born was the author of many fundamental results in quantum theory: he became one of the founders of matrix mechanics, he suggested a probabilistic interpretation of Schrodinger’s wave function, he made a considerable contribution in the quantum theory of dispersion (Born’s movement” and so on. He worked on problems of crystal lattice’s dynamics, thermodynamics and kinetic theory of solids, liquids and gases, relativity theory, elasticity theory. He applied ideas of quantum mechanics to problems of differents fields of science (structure of atoms and moleculas, physics of solids and others), he made an attempt to build non-linear electrodynamics (Born-Infeld’s theory). Born established big scientific institutions in Edinburgh and Gottingen, he made speeches on his publications about philosophic and social problems of science. After the Second World War he became one of the founders and active members of scientists’ movement for piece.

Birth and education (1882-1907)

Max Born was born in Prussian town Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland) in a family of famous Jewish embryologist Gustav Born (1850-1900) who was a professor in the Breslaw University. Max’ ancestors in the male line had had a last name Buttermilch till in 1842 they changed it for less noticeable Born. Among them were a businessman Davis Born (1817-1879), a famous personality of worker’s movement Stefan Born (1824-1898) and a doctor Marcus Born (1819-1874) who was a grandfather of the future physicist. Max’ mother Margarete Kaufmann (1856-1886) was a daughter of a successful Silesian textile industrialist Salomon Kaufmann (1824-1900). Kaufmanns were fond of music, they were visited by such famous composers as Franz List and Johannes Brahms.

After mother’s death who suffered from cholelithiasis Max and his younger sister Kathe (1884-1953) were brought up by governess till in 1892 their father Gustav Born married for the second time Bertha Lipstein (1866-1937) who gave birth to another son Wolfgang (1893-1949), although there weren’t real closeness between a stepmother and adopted children, warm home atmosphere contributed to development of personality and faculties of Max. Among regular visitors of Born’s house were an inventor of chemotherapy Paul Ehrich and a bacteriologist Albert Neisser. The young Max wasn’t on of the best students in a classical school of Keiser William where he was taught only traditional humanities but his teacher of physucs doctor Maschke managed to carry a young Born away with his subject.

After finishing school Max Born followed his father’s advice who died shortly before it and in 1901-1902 he started to attend lectures on different subjects (physics, chemistry, zoology, philosophy, logic, mathematics, astronomy) in the Breslaw University. Finally he chose two subjects – mathematics and astronomy and decided to become an astronomer. But soon he was disappointed by low level of university astronomic equipment and necessity to make a lot of monotonous calculations. Following the tradition of that time Born didn’t stay constantly in Breslau: a summer term of 1902 he spent in the Heidelberg University where he made friends with James Frank, and a summer term of the next year he spent in Zurich polytechnic university where he attended lectures of a famous mathematician Adolf Hurwitz. From his university mates Max got to know about Gottingen mathematician school and he went to this town where he attended lectures of David Gilbert, German Minkovsky and Voldemar Foig. Soon Gilbert chose a new student to become his assistant with a charge to write professor’s lectures. But Born considered more valuable a possibility to take part in discussions of Gilbert and Minkovsky which happened during their walks in Gottingen. The future scientist also took part in several seminars. One of such seminars was devoted to electrodynamics of moving bodies and it drew Born’s attention to the subject of a special relativity theory (Einstein’s name wasn’t famous yet). Work on the problems of elasticity theory which were discussed during the seminar under the leadership of Felix Klein and Karl Runge was so fruitful that Born according to Klein’s advice presented his works for the university contest and won an award. This work was devoted to steadiness of elastic deformation and became a basis for Born’s doctoral dissertation. However his relashionships with Klein weren’t ideal because Born wanted to work on relativity theory and firstly he refused to write a dissertation on elasticity theory. That’s why he didn’t choose geometry as a doctoral oral examination and preferred astronomy: his examiner became a director of Gottingen observatory Karl Schwarzshild whose astrophysical seminars he attended too. The examination went well in January of 1907.

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Living octopus

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