Erwin Schrödinger: The Physicist Who Developed the Schrödinger Equation
Erwin Schrödinger was one of the most influential physicists of the 20th century, most famous for developing the Schrödinger equation, which has become the cornerstone of modern quantum mechanics. Often referred to as the “father of quantum mechanics,” Schrödinger was also a philosophical thinker and made essential contributions to atomic physics, statistical mechanics, and thermodynamics. This article will explore the life and work of Erwin Schrödinger, with a particular focus on his development of the Schrödinger equation.
Early Life and Education
Born on August 12th, 1887 in Vienna, Erwin Schrödinger was the only son of an industrialist and a master weaver. He was an excellent student and highly precocious, completing the equivalent of a college degree by the age of 19. He then went on to attend the University of Vienna, where he studied mathematics and physics under Ludwig Boltzmann and Ernst Mach. After completing his doctoral studies in 1910, Schrödinger became an assistant at the University of Zurich and did his postdoctoral research at the University of Jena.
Major Contributions to Physics
Throughout his career, Schrödinger made several important contributions to physics. In 1915 he was awarded a PhD for his work on thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, which laid the foundation for his later work in quantum mechanics. He then went on to make significant discoveries in the field of atomic physics, including the Schrödinger wave equation and its associated equation of motion. These equations represent a wave-like description of matter, allowing for an understanding of the behavior of particles on the atomic scale.
Schrödinger’s Wave Equation
Like many of his contemporary physicists, Erwin Schrödinger was attempting to devise a way to explain the behavior of matter on the atomic scale. One of the biggest questions they faced was understanding how particles were able to interact at such small scales—or, put another way, how atoms moved and changed their energy states. Schrödinger’s answer was to develop a wave equation, which described how a wave propagates in space and time. This wave equation has become known as the Schrödinger equation, and it is the foundational theory of quantum mechanics.
In simple terms, the Schrödinger equation is an equation that relates the probability of measuring a particular value of an observable quantity, such as an atom’s position or momentum, to its wave function. The wave function is a mathematical tool used to describe the quantum state of a system. In essence, by using the Schrödinger equation, physicists can calculate the probability of measuring a particular value of a property of a quantum system, such as the energy or position of an atom.
Erwin Schrödinger left an enormous legacy within the field of physics. His insights revolutionized the way we think about the behavior of matter on the atomic scale and have since been widely applied in a variety of disciplines, ranging from chemistry to cosmology. His wave equation has become the central tool used to analyze and explain the behavior of quantum systems.
As the father of quantum mechanics, Schrödinger’s work deeply influenced the development of modern physics and our understanding of the physical world. His expansive contributions to the field of physics continue to be recognized and valued today.
Erwin Schrödinger was a groundbreaking, influential physicist who shaped the development of physics and our understanding of the behavior of matter on the atomic scale. His contributions to the field are numerous and far-reaching, but he is best known for his development of the Schrödinger equation, which has become the cornerstone of modern quantum mechanics. His insights have had a lasting impact on the scientific community and have revolutionized the way we think about the physical world.