Max Born

Max Born
(1882 - 1970)

German physicist, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1954, with Walther Bothe of Germany, for his statistical formulation of the behaviour of subatomic particles. His studies of the wave function led to the replacement of the original quantum theory, which regarded electrons as particles, with an essentially mathematical description representing their observed behaviour more accurately.
Born earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Gottingen in 1907 and eventually began teaching there. In 1921, the year he became professor of theoretical physics at Gottingen, Born produced a very precise definition of quantity of heat, the most satisfactory mathematical statement of the first law of thermodynamics. In 1926, after his student Werner Heisenberg had formulated the first laws of a new quantum theory, Born collaborated with him to develop the mathematical formulation that would adequately describe it. Somewhat later, when Erwin Schrodinger put forward his quantum mechanical wave equation, Born showed that the solution of the equation has a statistical meaning of physical significance. Born's interpretation of the wave equation proved to be of fundamental importance in the new theory of quantum mechanics. Born also introduced a useful technique, known as the Born approximation, for solving problems concerning the scattering of atomic particles. He and J. Robert Oppenheimer initiated a widely used simplification of the calculations dealing with electronic structures of molecules.

In 1933 Born fled the Nazis and became Stokes lecturer at the University of Cambridge. He was elected to the Tait chair of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in 1936, becoming a British subject in 1939. After his retirement in 1953 Born returned to Gottingen.

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