Max Born

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Max Born : biography

11 December 1882 – 05 January 1970

Gottingen – Berlin – Frankfurt (1907-1921)

After Born got doctor’s degree he was obliged to serve in the armed forces for a year but the revealed asthma allowed to reduce this term. After service he went to Cambridge for half a year where he attended lectures of famous physics J.J. Thompson and Joseph Larmor. After returning in Breslaw Born work under the leadership of experimenters Otto Lummer and Ernst Princegame for a while and soon he found Einstein’s works and was carried away by relativity theory. This activity brought him to Gottingen again where he was invited to be a Minkovsky’s assistant (December of 1908). But in January of 1909 Minkovsky suddenly died after unsuccessful operation and soon with the help of Foig Born became a privat-docent. By that time he started fruitful collaboration with his university colleague Teodor von Karman in questions of crystal lattices theory.

In 1912 Albert Meikelson invited Born in USA and Max Born visited this country for the first time. He made lectures about relativity theory in the Chicago University. In spring of 1914 he moved to Berlin and became an extraordinary professor – this position was established in order to relieve Max Plank of the part of his teaching load. Soon with the start of the First World War Born happened to be involved in military works: he was an operator of air force and investigated diffusion of sound for artillery needs. The aim of work in which Alfred Lande and Ervin Madelung also took part was to detect a position of enemies’ gun according to time of shot’s sound registration in several points. In the Berlin period Born’s friendship with Albert Einstein became closer – earlier they knew each other because of scientific letters. After the war finished Max von Lawe who worked in the Frankfurt University and wanted to be closer to his teacher Plank offered Born to change professor’s positions. Born agreed and in April of 1919 he became a professor and a chancellor of the Institute of theoretical physics in Frankfurt. There were some experimental possibilities in the institute which were arranged by Otto Stern who became Born’s assistant and soon realized a famous experiment.

Gottingen again (1912-1933)

In 1921 Born became a chancellor of Physical institute of the Gottingen University. The new professor of theoretical physics insisted that experimental works in university should be leaded by his friend James Frank. In Gottingen Max Born continued his investigations in dynamics of crystal laticces but soon he started to work on quantum theory. His collaboration with talented university workers promoted his fruitful work in this field. The result of this activity was development in 1925 of formalism of matrix mechanics and advancement of probabilistic interpretation of Schrodinger’s wave function. Intense scientific and administrative work and trips to USA (in winter of 1925-1926) and USSR (1928) undermined his health and led to nervous disorder. He had to make a year break in research anв teaching activity during which he wrote his famous monograph on optics. Nevertheless the scientist himself admitted that in following years he didn’t manage to return his former capacity for work. When he characterized his methods of work and interest to principal questions of natural science he wrote: “I never liked particular speciality and always was a dilettante even in my own subject. I can’t adapt to the modern science which is made by specialists’ teams. I was more interested in the philosophic part of science than in special results”.

A soviet physicist Yury Rumer wrote about caorrelation of mathematics and physics in Born’s activity: “Max Born always rely on mathematical instrument which he knew perfectly. He often joked with his students – firstly you need to start counting that to think. Mathematics was his via regia (royal way) that leaded to discovery of nature secrets. Born didn’t approve and never read works in which hypertrophied mathematical instrument was far away from live physics, he didn’t believe in possibility to know nature’s secrets with the help of “juggling with index”