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Quantum Mechanics

Heisenberg and Matrix Mechanics

A matrix is simply an array of numbers.

In 1922, Heisenberg was 20 years old and still working on his PhD. He attended one of Bohr's lectures and rose at the end to object to a point Bohr had made. Bohr was so impressed that he invited Heisenberg to walk in the mountains after the lecture. Bohr confided that he was deeply worried about the ad hoc state of quantum mechanics. Heisenberg loathed Bohr's atomic models and set to work to develop an alternate theory more to his liking. He immediately discarded Bohr's solar system model as he disliked the classical idea of orbits being applied to the atomic scale. He developed a description of quantum mechanics based on mathematical objects called matrices – simply arrays of numbers.

Heisenberg's matrix description of quantum mechanics was not at all popular as it was so abstract and hard to visualize. There were no visual aids, like Bohr's orbits to fall back on. Despite this, Heisenberg is generally regarded as the father of quantum mechanics and he won the 1932 Nobel Prize in physics for his outstanding contributions.


Related Laureates

 The Nobel Prize in Physics 1922 - Niels Henrik David Bohr »  The Nobel Prize in Physics 1932 - Werner Karl Heisenberg »  

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