The Nobel Prize in Physics 1933
Born: 12 August 1887, Vienna, Austria
Died: 4 January 1961, Vienna, Austria
Affiliation at the time of the award: Berlin University, Berlin, Germany
Prize motivation: “for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory”
Prize share: 1/2
Erwin Schrödinger was born in Vienna, where he also attended university. During the 1920s, he worked at several German universities, but left Germany in 1934 because of his opposition to Nazism. His unconventional private life—in addition to his wife, he also lived with another woman—made it difficult to obtain a permanent position. From 1940 he was involved in the development and management of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Dublin. In addition to physics, Schrödinger was also interested in philosophy and biology.
In Niels Bohr’s theory of the atom, electrons absorb and emit radiation of fixed wavelengths when jumping between fixed orbits around a nucleus. The theory provided a good description of the spectrum created by the hydrogen atom, but needed to be developed to suit more complicated atoms and molecules. Assuming that matter (e.g., electrons) could be regarded as both particles and waves, in 1926 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a wave equation that accurately calculated the energy levels of electrons in atoms.
Their work and discoveries range from the Earth’s climate and our sense of touch to efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.
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