Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

I Experimental history of quantum physics

  1. Jul 19, 2017 #1
    I have a bunch of issues with the various interpretations of quantum physics. I'd like to dig into it but most text books on the topic just throw in your face a bunch of equations and tell you "that's the way it works"

    Intead, I'm looking for a detailed history of the experiments that led to the current theories of quantum physics, is there such a book ? If yes please let me know the book title/author thank you very much
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 19, 2017 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Inward Bound by Abraham Pais, Oxford, 1986.

    I couldn't put it down !

    also ( for theory )

    Sources of Quantum Mechanics, ed. Van der Waerden, Dover, 1967.

    Reprints of papers by Einstein, Hesenberg, Pauli and Dirac amongst others.
  4. Jul 19, 2017 #3
    Thanks @Mentz114 that looks spot on, I'm happy

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 19, 2017
  5. Jul 19, 2017 #4

    Dr Transport

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Jammer: Conceptual Development of Quantum Mechanics
  6. Jul 20, 2017 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    My favorite book on the history of quantum mechanics is "Malcolm Longair: Quantum Concepts in Physics".
  7. Jul 20, 2017 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    A very detailed multi-volume book is by Mehra and Rechenberg, The historical development of quantum mechanics.
  8. Jul 24, 2017 #7
    One book that I liked from a historical perspective was "What is Quantum Mechanics? A Physics Adventure"

    It has a lot of cartoons and is written in an unintimidating style. But don't let that fool you. It gets reasonably rigorous. It follows the history of the development of Quantum Mechanics, starting with Planck and the blackbody radiation problem he was grappling with, the photoelectric effect, then moving on to Einstein's interpretation and synthesis of these. It talks about Compton's scattering experiments. There is a nice section on Bohr's model of the atom based on the spectra of the hydrogen atom. It has a great section on Heisenberg's formulation of Matrix mechanics, and Born's and others' insights into developing it further, Einstein's initial objections to Heisenberg's formulation (it even has a section on how after Heisenberg had presented his results at a meeting, Einstein invited him over and really gave him a grilling on his new formulations. The conversation is taken from a memoir which Heisenberg wrote afterward. It is fascinating to hear their conversation, almost as if you were there). It goes on to DeBroglie's work, then Schrodinger (the section on how Schrodinger derived his equation was really confusing. But I don't think anyone really understands how he did it originally. It has almost an element of divine revelation in it or something. I am still trying to figure it out. Most of the quantum mechanics books which derive the equation and "throw it in your face" nowadays are probably better to try to actually understanding how that equation works). There is a very enlightening section, rare to see anywhere else, showing how Schrodinger went on to prove the mathematical equivalence of his formulation of quantum mechanics with that of Heisenberg's Matrix mechanics.

    That's about where the book stops. It does not really go on to talking much about Dirac or anything. But it really gives you a nice feel for the story of how quantum mechanics evolved in its early days, and the stories and motivations behind all the characters behind it. It brings the characters, the motivations, and ideas to life.
  9. Jul 25, 2017 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Try the chapter on Schrödinger's papers in Longair's book. It contains a good analysis which highlights the key points and nicely provides context. For example, how far Hamilton already got long before people talked about quantum theory or the lucky coincidence that Courant's and Hilbert's book "Methods of Mathematical Physics" appeared just in time to provide the mathematical methods which Schrödinger needed.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted