Werner Heisenberg bigraphy, stories - Physicist

Werner Heisenberg : biography

5 December 1901 - 1 February 1976, age 74

Werner Karl Heisenberg (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist and one of the key creators of quantum mechanics. This was published in 1925 in a breakthrough paper. In the subsequent series of papers with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, during the same year, this matrix formulation of quantum mechanics was substantially elaborated. In 1927 he published his uncertainty principle, upon which he built his philosophy and for which he is best known. Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932 "for the creation of quantum mechanics". He also made important contributions to the theories of the hydrodynamics of turbulent flows, the atomic nucleus, ferromagnetism, cosmic rays, and subatomic particles, and he was instrumental in planning the first West German nuclear reactor at Karlsruhe, together with a research reactor in Munich, in 1957. Considerable controversy surrounds his work on atomic research during World War II.

Following World War II, he was appointed director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics, which soon thereafter was renamed the Max Planck Institute for Physics. He was director of the institute until it was moved to Munich in 1958, when it was expanded and renamed the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics.

Heisenberg was also president of the German Research Council, chairman of the Commission for Atomic Physics, chairman of the Nuclear Physics Working Group, and president of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Life and career

Early years

Heisenberg was born in Würzburg, Germany, to Kaspar Earnesta August Heisenberg, a secondary school teacher of classical languages who became Germany's only ordentlicher Professor (ordinarius professor) of medieval and modern Greek studies in the university system, and his wife, Annie Wecklein.

He studied physics and mathematics from 1920 to 1923 at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. At Munich, he studied under Arnold Sommerfeld and Wilhelm Wien. At Göttingen, he studied physics with Max Born and James Franck, and he studied mathematics with David Hilbert. He received his doctorate in 1923, at Munich under Sommerfeld. He completed his Habilitation in 1924, at Göttingen under Born., Nobel Prize in Physics 1932 Nobelprize.org.; see the entry for Heisenberg.

Because Sommerfeld had a sincere interest in his students and knew of Heisenberg's interest in Niels Bohr's theories on atomic physics, Sommerfeld took Heisenberg to Göttingen to the Bohr-Festspiele (Bohr Festival) in June 1922. At the event, Bohr was a guest lecturer and gave a series of comprehensive lectures on quantum atomic physics. There, Heisenberg met Bohr for the first time, and it had a significant and continuing effect on him.

Heisenberg's doctoral thesis, the topic of which was suggested by Sommerfeld, was on turbulence; as cited in the thesis discussed both the stability of laminar flow and the nature of turbulent flow. The problem of stability was investigated by the use of the Orr–Sommerfeld equation, a fourth order linear differential equation for small disturbances from laminar flow. He briefly returned to this topic after World War II.

Heisenberg's paper on the anomalous Zeeman effect as cited in was accepted as his Habilitationsschrift (Habilitation thesis) under Max Born at Göttingen.

In his youth he was a member and Scoutleader of the Neupfadfinder, a German Scout association and part of the German Youth Movement. In August 1923 Robert Honsell and Heisenberg organized a trip (Großfahrt) to Finland with a Scout group of this association from Munich.


Göttingen, Copenhagen, and Leipzig

From 1924 to 1927, Heisenberg was a Privatdozent at Göttingen. From 17 September 1924 to 1 May 1925, under an International Education Board Rockefeller Foundation fellowship, Heisenberg went to do research with Niels Bohr, director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen. He returned to Göttingen and with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, over a period of about six months, developed the matrix mechanics formulation of quantum mechanics. On 1 May 1926, Heisenberg began his appointment as a university lecturer and assistant to Bohr in Copenhagen. It was in Copenhagen, in 1927, that Heisenberg developed his uncertainty principle, while working on the mathematical foundations of quantum mechanics. On 23 February, Heisenberg wrote a letter to fellow physicist Wolfgang Pauli, in which he first described his new principle. In his paper, cited in on the uncertainty principle, Heisenberg used the word "Ungenauigkeit" (imprecision).

Living octopus

Living octopus

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