How Max Born Forever Changed Quantum Mechanics

Max Born was a German man who played a very important role in the establishment of quantum mechanics. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, quantum mechanics focuses on how matter interacts with energy on the atomic and subatomic scale, which is a significant difference from how classical physics focuses on a scale that is much more familiar for us. As a result, it is no exaggeration to say that Born has had a huge influence on modern science.

How Did Max Born Change Quantum Mechanics?

Background-wise, Born was the child of Gustav Born andMargarete Kaufmann. Gustav Born was a well-respected professor of embryology, while Margarete Kaufmann was a member of a family involved in the textile industry. Unfortunately for Born, his mother died when he was still four and while his new mother from his father’s next marriage treated him well, he never managed to build a close relationship with her.

Regardless, Born went to school in Breslau. He showed no particular promise when it came to his schooling. In fact, Born seemed to have been more interested in the humanities than in the scenes in that part of his life. Eventually, Born continued on to the University of Breslau, where he proceeded to study a wide range of subjects at his father’s insistence. That was how Born became interested in both astronomy and mathematics, which were included in his father’s list.

In time, Born became well-acquainted with a wide range of leading figures in the scientific fields. After receiving his doctorate, he performed compulsory military service, which he disliked so much that it left him with a lifelong loathing for everything related to the military. As a result, when World War One came around, Born got as many of his colleagues and his students transferred to research positions rather than active duty as possible. Born’s misery in those times was lessened to some extent by his friend Albert Einstein, with whom he got along well enough that the two were known to perform violin sonatas together.

Following the war, Born continued on in academia. By 1926, he was working with both Wolfgang Pauli and Werner Heisenberg on quantum mechanics. In fact, it was Born and Heisenberg who came up with the matrix mechanics representation of quantum mechanics, which was particularly notable because in those times, matrices saw little use by physicists because they were believed to belong in the realm of pure mathematics. Regardless, Born, Heisenberg, and another of Born’s students Pascual Jordan winded up being nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics, though Heisenberg winded up being the sole recipient to be honored for the creation of quantum mechanics. Something that seems to have caused a fair amount of guilt on Heisenberg’s part, which he expressed in a letter addressed to his one-time teacher.

Later, Born was one of the Jewish professors who were suspended without pay when the Nazis came to power in Germany. As a result, Born and his family left Germany, though it took some time before Born managed to secure a permanent position at the University of Edinburgh. Once ensconced in his new position, it wasn’t long before Born and his family started working to get as many of his friends and relatives out of Germany, which included both his sister and his in-laws. With that said, Born didn’t stop working on his specialties. Likewise, his fellow physicists never stopped nominating him for the Nobel Prize in Physics for various fields of research such as crystal lattices, solid state physics, and quantum mechanics. Even once Born had retired, he continued to perform scientific work, which included producing new editions of his books, which included some that were very influential in their fields.

Final Thoughts

Summed up, Born’s name isn’t as well-known in the modern world as the names of some of his contemporaries. However, there can be no doubt about the fact that he played a very important role in his chosen field, both on his own and in collaboration with others. Due to this, for people who are curious about either quantum mechanics or the history of physics in the 20th century, Born is definitely a name that they should look into for more in-depth information.


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