Max Born


Max Born

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Max Born
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1954

Born: 11 December 1882, Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland)

Died: 5 January 1970, Göttingen, West Germany (now Germany)

Affiliation at the time of the award: Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Prize motivation: “for his fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially for his statistical interpretation of the wavefunction”

Prize share: 1/2


Max Born was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), where his father was a professor of anatomy. Born studied at universities in Breslau, Heidelberg, Zurich and Göttingen, where he received his doctorate in 1906. After serving in the army during the First World War, he became a professor at the University of Frankfurt-on-Main in 1919 and at the University of Göttingen in 1921. After the Nazis seized power in 1933, he moved to Cambridge in United Kingdom. Beginning in 1936, he served as a professor at the University of Edinburgh. Max Born was married and had three children.


In Niels Bohr’s theory of the atom, electrons absorb and emit radiation of fixed wavelengths when jumping between 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. Following Werner Heisenberg’s initial work around 1925, Max Born contributed to the further development of quantum mechanics. He also proved that Schrödinger’s wave equation could be interpreted as giving statistical (rather than exact) predictions of variables.

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