Max Born

Physicist, Academic

1882 – 1970


Who was Max Born?

Max Born was a German-British 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. Born won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics for his "fundamental research in Quantum Mechanics, especially in the statistical interpretation of the wave function".

Born entered the University of Göttingen in 1904, where he found the three renowned mathematicians, Felix Klein, David Hilbert and Hermann Minkowski. He wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the subject of "Stability of Elastica in a Plane and Space", winning the University's Philosophy Faculty Prize. 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, arranging another chair for his long-time friend and colleague James Franck. Under Born, Göttingen became one of the world's foremost centres for physics. In 1925, Born and Werner Heisenberg formulated the matrix mechanics representation of quantum mechanics. The following year, he formulated the now-standard interpretation of the probability density function for ψ*ψ in the Schrödinger equation, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954. His influence extended far beyond his own research. Max Delbrück, Siegfried Flügge, Friedrich Hund, Pascual Jordan, Maria Goeppert-Mayer, Lothar Wolfgang Nordheim, Robert Oppenheimer, and Victor Weisskopf all received their Ph.D. degrees under Born at Göttingen, and his assistants included Enrico Fermi, Werner Heisenberg, Gerhard Herzberg, Friedrich Hund, Pascual Jordan, Wolfgang Pauli, Léon Rosenfeld, Edward Teller, and Eugene Wigner.


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Dec 11, 1882
  • Lutheranism
  • Judaism
  • Ashkenazi Jews
  • Jewish people
  • Germans
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
  • Georg-August University of Göttingen
  • Wrocław University
  • Georg-August University of Göttingen
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Humboldt University of Berlin
Lived in
  • Wrocław
  • United Kingdom
  • Göttingen
Jan 5, 1970

on July 23, 2013