Max Born: The Physicist Who Developed the Born Rule for Quantum Mechanics
Max Born was one of the most influential physicists of the 20th century. He was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) in 1882. Growing up in a Jewish family, he experienced anti-Semitism early in life. He went on to study mathematics, physics, and philosophy at the University of Göttingen,where he would later become a professor.
Throughout his life, Max Born was an extremely accomplished scientist. He was an important contributor to quantum mechanics and developed the Born rule, which defines the probability of finding a particle at a given point in space. He was also awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the “fundamental understanding of the atomic structure of matter”, particularly for the Born rule.
In this article, we’ll explore Max Born’s life and legacy, particularly his contributions to quantum mechanics.
Max Born was born in Breslau on December 11, 1882. His parents, Gustav Born and Margarethe Kauffman, were both members of the German-Jewish upper middle class. His father was a well-known anatomist and gynecologist at the University of Breslau, and his mother was a music teacher.
Born studied mathematics, physics, and philosophy at the University of Göttingen. He graduated in 1904 and then followed his father’s footsteps and obtained a doctorate in medicine from the University of Breslau in 1906.
However, he quickly realized that medicine was not his true passion. Instead, he decided to focus on research and obtained a fellowship to work with influential mathematician and physicist David Hilbert at the University of Göttingen in 1908.
The World War I Years
During World War I, Born was conscripted into the German military and was sent to the front lines in 1915. He spent two years in the trenches, and one of his closest friends died while serving alongside him.
After returning from the war, Born resumed his academic studies and became a lecturer at the University of Göttingen in 1919. At the same time, he worked on the statistical mechanics of ideal gases, laying the groundwork for his contribution to quantum mechanics.
The 1920s and Quantum Mechanics
In 1926, Born and his colleagues developed the matrix mechanics formulation of quantum mechanics, which provided the first complete theory for explaining atomic and molecular systems. The following year, he worked with physicist Pascual Jordan to develop the wave mechanics formulation of quantum mechanics, which is the basis for the modern understanding of the theory.
In 1927, Born proposed what is now known as the Born rule, which states that the square of the wavefunction describes the probability of finding an electron in a given region of space. This breakthrough revolutionized the field of quantum mechanics and helped scientists better understand the behavior of atoms and subatomic particles.
Contribution to Other Scientific Fields
Max Born not only made important contributions to quantum mechanics, but also to other scientific fields. He helped to apply quantum theory to explain the behavior of crystals, proposed the Born-Oppenheimer approximation to simplify the Schrödinger equation and collaborated with other scientists to develop new mathematical theories.
Beginning in 1939, he published a series of seven books on the theoretical foundations of physics, which included discussions of relativity, quantum theory, and probability.
The Postwar Years
When the war ended in 1945, Born was invited to Britain to become one of the members of the British nuclear weapon’s project. He turned down the offer and instead accepted a professorship at the University of Edinburgh, where he stayed until his retirement in 1953.
In 1954, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the “fundamental understanding of the atomic structure of matter”. He was only the second German-born scientist to receive the Nobel Prize since World War II.
Death and Legacy
Max Born died of pneumonia at the age of 83 in Göttingen, Germany on January 5, 1970. He is remembered for his important contributions to quantum mechanics, as well as for his strong belief in human altruism and solidarity, which was influenced by his Jewish heritage.
His work had a lasting impact on the field of physics and laid the groundwork for further advancements in the 20th century. The Born rule, which he developed in 1927, is now one of the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics and is used by scientists today to better understand and predict the behavior of atomic particles.
Max Born was one of the most prominent and influential scientists of the 20th century. His contributions to the fields of mathematics, physics, and philosophy were revolutionary and laid the foundation for advancements in quantum mechanics.
He developed the Born rule and was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the understanding of the atomic structure of matter. His legacy lives on in the field of quantum mechanics and his work continues to inspire generations of scientists.