1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What did physicists study in grad school in the early 1900's?

  1. Oct 31, 2013 #1
    Before quantum mechanics and relativity were incorporated into the physics curriculum, what did physicists go to grad school for? It seems like classical mechanics, thermodynamics (I believe stat mech was not well developed at the time), and electromagnetism were the only things that were well-understood enough to be studied, and everything that was known at the time could easily have been learned in undergrad. I tried looking up some old college course listings, but couldn't find anything. So does anyone know what grad students in physics learned back then?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 31, 2013 #2

    SteamKing

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    A lot of material which is taught in current undergraduate courses would have been considered graduate level work in the early TwenCen. A lot of mathematical material which is taken for granted nowadays, like Fourier analysis, was being developed or had not been applied widely to investigate physical problems. Some of these analysis techniques would become practical only after the development of the digital computer in the mid-TwenCen.
     
  4. Oct 31, 2013 #3
    Thanks for the reply. So it seems then that maybe physicists a hundred years ago would have spent their undergrad years learning the basics in more detail then we do now, and maybe even delving into the frontiers of modern research on their own? It seems to me that with all the new advances we have now, with quantum theory, QFT, QED, relativity, solid-state physics, stat mech, particle physics, cosmology, etc. it's becoming harder and harder to get to the cutting edge. I'm in grad school now, btw, which is why I was wondering.
     
  5. Oct 31, 2013 #4

    SteamKing

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

  6. Oct 31, 2013 #5
    Thanks a lot for the link, it was really interesting!
     
  7. Oct 31, 2013 #6

    SteamKing

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    With the amount of knowledge being accumulated annually across all disciplines, prospective scientists must study more and specialize to extremes to make original contributions. It also takes a lot of funds and often times access to very expensive equipment to do experimental work. Even theoretical work has advanced beyond the point where all that is needed is a pad of paper and a sharp pencil. Some theoretical work (like astrophysical simulations) require the development and testing of elaborate numerical models, a lot of which can only be tested on supercomputers.
     
  8. Oct 31, 2013 #7
    I doubt this is true. There is a lot of classical mechanics that is not covered thoroughly as an undergrad (from the schools Ive seen) which I assume was developed enough to be incorporated in a curricula back then. For example, continuum mechanics and fluid dynamics.

    I'd also imagine optics was a larger requirement.
     
  9. Oct 31, 2013 #8
    Just look at early Physical Review papers
     
  10. Oct 31, 2013 #9

    cgk

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    It should also be noted that many topics which are only glanced over nowadays (e.g., in classical mechanics or function theory) were considered in *much* more depth earlier. For example, there is a four volume(!!) textbook on (essentially) spinning tops by Arnold Sommerfeld and Felix Klein, two of the most prominent scientists of their time. Today such stuff is not even included in many curricula (and rightly so).
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: What did physicists study in grad school in the early 1900's?
Loading...