Saturday, December 5, 2009

December 5: Werner Heisenberg

Werner Heisenberg
December 5, 1901 – February 1, 1976

Werner Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist who made foundational contributions to quantum mechanics and is best known for asserting the uncertainty principle of quantum theory. In addition, he also made important contributions to nuclear physics, quantum field theory, and particle physics.

Heisenberg, along with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, set forth the matrix formulation of quantum mechanics in 1925. Heisenberg was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Following the war, he was appointed director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics, which was soon thereafter 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.

Heisenberg studied under Arnold Sommerfeld, who was born on this date in 1868. Sommerfeld was a German theoretical physicist who pioneered developments in atomic and quantum physics, and also educated and groomed a large number of students for the new era of theoretical physics. He introduced the fine-structure constant into quantum mechanics.

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