Max Born (1882-1970) German/British, a modern pioneer in science and faith

Hi Max,

Bet you got excited to meet Max Planck! Now here is his mate, Max Born. Cheers

Max Born (1882–1970) German/British Jewish


was a German physicist and mathematician who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics. He also made contributions to solid-state physics and optics and supervised the work of a number of notable physicists in the 1920s and 30s. Having been nominated several times, Born did win the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics for his "fundamental research in Quantum Mechanics,[3][4] especially in the statistical interpretation of the wave function".[1][2][5][6]

In 1905, he began researching special relativity with Minkowski, and subsequently wrote his habilitation thesis on the Thomson model of the atom. A chance meeting with Fritz Haber in Berlin in 1918 led to discussion of the manner in which an ionic compound is formed when a metal reacts with a halogen, which is today known as the Born–Haber cycle.

In 1921, Born returned to Göttingen, which he led to become one of the world’s foremost centres for physics, working with, for instance, Werner Heisenberg, Siegfried Flügge, Maria Goeppert-Mayer, Robert Oppenheimer, and Victor Weisskopf , Enrico Fermi, Wolfgang Pauli, and Eugene Wigner. "Theoretical physics," Einstein had said to him, "will flourish wherever you happen to be; there is no other Born to be found in Germany today."[31]

In January 1933, the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, and Born, who was Jewish, was suspended. He emigrated to Britain, where he took a job at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he wrote a popular science book, The Restless Universe, and Atomic Physics, that soon became a standard text book. His tenure at Göttingen was terminated in May 1935 and in November 1935, the Born family had their German citizenship revoked, rendering them stateless. A few weeks later Göttingen cancelled Born’s doctorate.[61] While briefly in India, he was appointed Tait Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, in October 1936.[57] He became a naturalised British subject on 31 August 1939, one day before World War II broke out in Europe. During 1939, he got as many of his remaining friends and relatives still in Germany as he could out of the country.

He remained at Edinburgh until 1952, when he retired to West Germany.

Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the ‘old one’. I, at any rate, am convinced that He is not playing at dice.[43]

This quotation is often paraphrased as ‘God does not play dice’.[44]

In 1928, Einstein nominated Heisenberg, Born, and Jordan for the Nobel Prize in Physics,[45][46] but Heisenberg alone won the 1932 Prize. On 25 November 1933, Born received a letter from Heisenberg in which he said he had been delayed in writing due to a "bad conscience" that he alone had received the Prize "for work done in Göttingen in collaboration — you, Jordan and I."[48] Heisenberg went on to say that Born and Jordan’s contribution to quantum mechanics cannot be changed by "a wrong decision from the outside."[48] In 1954, Heisenberg wrote an article honouring Planck for his insight in 1900, in which he credited Born and Jordan for the final mathematical formulation of matrix mechanics and Heisenberg went on to stress how great their contributions were to quantum mechanics, which were not "adequately acknowledged in the public eye."[49]

In his Nobel lecture he reflected on the philosophical implications of his work:

I believe that ideas such as absolute certitude, absolute exactness, final truth, etc. are figments of the imagination which should not be admissible in any field of science. On the other hand, any assertion of probability is either right or wrong from the standpoint of the theory on which it is based. This loosening of thinking (Lockerung des Denkens) seems to me to be the greatest blessing which modern science has given to us. For the belief in a single truth and in being the possessor thereof is the root cause of all evil in the world.[67]

Those who say that the study of science makes a man an atheist must be rather silly.

Born declared in his autobiography that “theoretical physics is actual philosophy,” and speculated that, despite the predictive success of quantum mechanics, “something,” although inaccessible to the observer, may yet exist beneath the laws of probability:

If God made the world a perfect mechanism, He has at least conceded so much to our imperfect intellect that in order to predict little parts of it, we need not solve innumerable differential equations, but can use dice with fair success.


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