Quantum Theory

What is brighter than a thousand suns ?


  • General Studies about Quantum Theory
  • Popular Discussions of Quantum Theory
  • Fission
  • Philosophy by Quantum Physicists

Kuhn, Thomas S., John L. Heilbron, Paul L. Forman, and Lini Allen. Sources for History of Quantum Physics: An Inventory and Report. Philadelphia; The American Philosophical Society, 1967.

General Studies about Quantum Theory

Fermi, Laura. Atoms in the Family; My Life With Enrico Fermi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954.

Forman, Paul. “Weimar Culture, Causality and Quantum Theory, 1918-1927: Adaptation of German Physicists and Mathematicians to a Hostile Environment,” Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 3 (1971): 1-115.

Read in conjunction with Henle (1979), Hendry (1980), and Kraft and Kroes (1984), all cited below.

George, André, ed. Louis de Broglie,Physicien et Penseur. Paris: Éditions Albin Michel, 1953.

Gamow, George. Thirty Years That Shook Physics; The Story of Quantum Theory. Garden City, N.Y.: Random House, 1966.

Hendry, John. The Creation of Quantum Mechanics and the Bohr-Pauli Dialogue. Studies in the History of Modern Science, 14. Dordrecht / Boston / Lancaster: D. Reidel, 1984.

Hendry, John. “Weimar Culture and Quantum Causality,” History of Science 18 (1980), 115-80.

Read in conjunction with Forman, “Weimar Culture” (1971).

Henle, Paul A.”Indeterminancy Before Heisenberg: The Case of Franz Exner and Erwin Schrödinger,” Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 10 (1979): 225-269.

Read in conjunction with Forman, “Weimar Culture” (1971).

Hoffmann, Banesh. The Strange Story of the Quantum, An Account for the General Reader of the Growth of the Ideas Underlying our Present Atomic Knowledge. New York, London: Harper & brothers, 1947.

Jammer, Max. The Conceptual Development of Quantum Mechanics. New York: McGraw-HIll, 1966.

Klein, Martin J. Paul Ehrenfest. Vol. I. The Making of a Theoretical Physicist. New York: American Elsevier, 1970.

Kraft, P. and P. Kroes. “Adaptation of Scientific Knowledge to an Intellectual Environment. Paul Forman’s ‘Weimar Culture …’: Analysis and Criticism,” Centaurus 27 (1984), 76-99.

Read in conjunction with Forman, “Weimar Culture” (1971).

Kragh, Helge S. Dirac: A Scientific Biography. New York / Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Mehra, Jagdish, and Helmut Rechenberg. The Historical Development of Quantum Theory. Forewords by Jagdish Mehra. 4 vols. in 6. Volume I: The Quantum Theory of Planck, Einstein, Bohr, and Sommerfeld; Its Foundations and the Rise of Difficulties, 1900-1925. Volume II: The Discovery of Quantum Mechanics, 1925. Volume III: The Formulation of Matrix Mechanics, 1925-1925. Volume IV, Part 1: The Fundamental Equations of Quantum Mechanics, 1925-1926; Part 2: The Reception of the New Quantum Mechanics, 1925-1926. New York, Heidelberg / Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1982. Volume V: Erwin Schrödinger and the Rise of Wave Mechanics. Part I: Schrödinger in Vienna and Zurich (1887-1925); Part 2: The Creation of Wave Mechanics, Early Response and Applications (1925-1926). New York / Heidelberg / Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1986.

Several physicists assembled recollected conversations and abstracted journal articles in these long volumes. Not really a history, but fundamentally an exercise in rational reconstruction. This book should be avoided.

Pickering, Andrew. Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics. Chicago/ London: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Relseneer, Jean,Relseneer, J. L’evolutionde la nortionde phenomene physique des primitifs a Bohr et Louis de Broglie. Bruxelles, office international de librairie, 1947.

Rosenfeld, Leon. “La Premiere Phase de l’Evolution de la Theorie des Quanta,” Osiris II (1936): 149-196.

Stuewer, Roger. The Compton Effect: Turning Point in Physics. New York: Science History Publications, 1975.

Popular Discussions of Quantum Theory

Davies, P. C. W., and J. R. Brown, Editors. The Ghost in the Atom: A Discussion of the Mysteries of Quantum Physics. Cambridge /London /New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Excellent discussion of major interpretations of quantum theory, and interviews with major participants.

Heisenberg, Werner. The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory. Translated into English by Carl Eckart and Frank C.Hoyt. Foreword to the English by Arthur H. Compton. First edition, 1930. Reprint edition. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1949.

This brief work originated as lectures delivered by Heisenberg at the University of Chicago in the spring of 1929. For the English edition, the editors reproduced more of Heisenberg’s mathematical discussion than in the German edition and moved the mathematics to the back of the book as an appendix on “The Mathematical Apparatus of the Quantum Theory.” What results is a remarkably clear, brief exposition (104 pages of printed text) of the experiments and their physical interpretation that led to the quantum mechanics. Heisenberg sided with Bohr’s radical interpretation of this science–the “Copenhagen interpretation”–, which is well explained in these lectures. Heisenberg includes excellent photographs to illustrate the particle-wave duality. This work should be the beginning point for a historical understanding of the new theory.


Krafft, Fritz. Im Schatten der Sensation: Leben und Wirken von Fritz Strassmann. Weinheim, FRG, and Deerfield Beach, Florida: Verlag Chemie, 1981.

Strassmann collaborated with Otto Hahn and Lisa Meitner in the research leading to the verification of nuclear fission in December 1938. Unpublished documents.

Peierls, Rudolf. Bird of Passage: Recollections of a Physicist. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.

Shea, William R., Editor. Otto Hahn and the Rise of Nuclear Physics. University of Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science, 22. Dordrecht / Boston / Lancaster: D. Reidel, 1983.

Philosophy by Quantum Physicists

Born, Max. Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949.

Schrödinger, Erwin. My View of the World. Cambridge: University Press, 1964.

Schrödinger, Erwin Science Theory and Man. New York: Dover Publications, 1961.


See also:

Albert Einstein and Quantum Theory
Niels Bohr
Werner Heisenberg
Max Planck