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

When did QM become standard Curriculum

  1. Dec 22, 2016 #1
    Hi all,

    Given that usually the most recent subject taught in a standard undergraduate curriculum is quantum mechanics, which was developed in the first half of the twentieth century, when did it become a standard part of the curriculum for undergraduates?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 22, 2016 #2
    Well I know for sure introductory courses like from Eisberg in the early sixties.
  4. Dec 29, 2016 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

  5. Dec 31, 2016 #4
    Dirac would have been giving lectures on quantum mechanics at Cambridge by 1930
  6. Dec 31, 2016 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I think the answer depends on the definition of "Quantum Mechanics"... drawing the line between (say) atomic physics and phenomena and the quantum theory by Schrodinger, etc..

    For example, Harvard had an undergraduate course in 1922
    "12. Radioactivity and X-Rays - Special Reference to Modern Theories of Matter"
    and a course "primarily for graduates"
    "15. Radiation and Applications of the Quantum Theory of Radiation"
    This is, of course, before Schrodinger and Heisenberg's papers.

    One would have to check other catalogues to conclude that these were "standard" courses by then.
  7. Dec 31, 2016 #6
    The experimental physics related to quantum phenomena atomic mainly probably ad been taught to undergrads since at least 1930. However QM either the Heisenberg approach or the Schrödinger approach where probably only taught at the graduate level since sometimes in the thirties, it was the latest theory, how much string theory is taught to undergrads today?. Schiff's QM book was first published in 1949 and it was a graduate level book.
  8. Feb 13, 2017 #7

    Andy Resnick

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I posed this question to a recently-retired colleague, which led to a lot of interesting discussions.

    The launch of Sputnik resulted in a complete overhaul of science and math education, from K through undergraduate, within a very short period of time.

    Leighton's 1959 book (https://www.amazon.com/Principles-Modern-Physics-Leighton-1959-12-01/dp/B01F7XH7AA) was the first book intended for undergraduates that covered QM and surprisingly, introduced the harmonic oscillator before the infinite square well. The HO was not solved with raising and lowering operators, but by explicitly solving the differential equation. You can find free PDFs of this book. Prior to this book, undergrad presentations of QM were qualitative.

    Similarly, in K-12 education, the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) (http://www.compadre.org/portal/pssc/pssc.cfm) re-designed the entire science curriculum and also introductory Physics textbooks and labs for undergrads- compare a pre-1957 intro book to a post-1957 book and the differences are striking- considerably more math and derivations, for one. The present-day intro curriculum is nearly unchanged from the PSSC.
  9. Feb 14, 2017 #8


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    1959, eh? I would have guessed a bit earlier, but still after World War II.

    In the early 1970s, I got my first taste of QM in an "intro modern physics" course using a textbook by Wehr and Richards. I don't remember what my upper-level undergraduate QM course used, except that it was published by Addison-Wesley and had an orange cover.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted