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History of Quantum Physics

  1. Dec 8, 2009 #1
    Does anyone know of any books on the history of quantum mechanics? I'd ideally like an in depth coverage of the experimental results and theoretical developments, with references to original papers. A complete treatment of non-relativistic quantum mechanics (from pre-Planck to Dirac) would be good, and through QED and QFT would be even better.

    Any suggestions?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2009 #2
    If you want a nice thorough explanation of it, I think Resnick et al. 's Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei, and Particles is a book you might want to look into.

    It takes a typical approach of developing Q.P. in chronological order. Its at the level of first/second year calc based physics course
  4. Dec 9, 2009 #3
    It is not really a technical book on the history, but https://www.amazon.com/Thirty-Years...sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1260339352&sr=8-3" by George Gamow is a really great book (and fun to read too) on the history of quantum theory. It is pretty cheap as well and is probably in most university libraries. I think it is important to understand the overall story, as well as the technical story.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  5. Dec 9, 2009 #4

    George Jones

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    Take a look at the scholarly (in both history and physics) six-volume set The Historical Development of Quantum Theory by Jagdish Mehra and Helmut Rechenberg. Beautiful.
  6. Dec 9, 2009 #5


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  7. Dec 9, 2009 #6
    Thomas Kuhn, Black–Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity 1894 – 1912, has a good history of the early days. Bohr's Atomic Theory and the Description of Nature is also essential reading for a historical view, especially considering the misconceptions about Bohr and the Copenhagen Interpretation that were prevalent for a long period of time.

    Other good primary sources that don't sound quite like what you are looking for are the original EPR paper, Schrodinger's cat paradox paper, Bohm's 1952 paper, Bohr's Essays on Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge, Heisenberg's Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science, Bohm's Wholeness and the Implicate Order and other books.

    James Cushing's Philosophical Concepts in Physics: The Historical Relation Between Philosophy and Scientific Theories has a good introductory level walk through of QM and its relations to relation to relativity and classical physics.

    Actually, Bohm wrote a QM textbook (before coming up with his own interpretation), https://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Theory-David-Bohm/dp/0486659690" is also probably good.

    I do recommend checking out multiple sources for multiple versions of what you're reading about. Almost no one agrees on much of anything.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. Dec 10, 2009 #7
    I actually own both the Bohm book, and the one I suggested (Resnick's Quantum Physics), and I found the Bohm book a little harder to read (to be honest, I didnt get out of the first few pages before stopping). I think its just his style of writing. But the Bohm book certainly has gotten alot of good reviews and probably works well for alot of people.

    Might just be worth picking both up. Bohm's book is a Dover book, so that cheap enough and you can find either an older edition or an international edition of Resnick's for cheap as well I'm sure.

    Let me say why I originally suggested the Resnick book. Sounded to me that T.S. wanted something a bit more "meaty" than a pop-sci book, but maybe not something quite as rigorous as to be for the upper-div/grad level. The Resnick book fit in well for this because it wasnt just simply a pop-sci treatment, doesn't require much more than a years worth of classical calc based physics and first year calc. The book also develops Q.P. in chronological order, giving lots of references to the ground breaking experiments.

    Cant really comment on some of the others, as I havent looks at them, but Im sure they are worth looking at too.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Dec 20, 2009 #8


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    Yoiks! That's pricey, but probably worth it.


    QED and the men who made it: Dyson, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga
    Silvan S. Schweber

    Dirac: a scientific biography
    https://www.amazon.com/Dirac-Scientific-Biography-Helge-Kragh/dp/0521380898 ($160)
    By Helge Kragh

    Both books have discussions of the mathematics and physics.

    I think most of the great scientists have published their works.

    These also look promising.

    The Principles of Quantum Mechanics (International Series of Monographs on Physics) (Paperback) by Paul A. M. Dirac

    Paul Dirac: The Man and his Work (Hardcover)
    ~ Abraham Pais (Author), Maurice Jacob (Author), David I. Olive (Author), Michael F. Atiyah (Author)

    Relativistic Quantum Mechanics: With Applications in Condensed Matter and Atomic Physics
    by Paul Strange (Paperback - Nov 13, 1998)
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  10. Dec 26, 2009 #9
    Conceptual Developments of Quantum Mechanics, Max Jammer
    Thomas Kuhn, Black–Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity 1894 – 1912
    Mehra, The Historical Development of Quantum Theory, 6 vol. set (for the full story of QM)
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