The Best Books on: The Golden Age of Quantum Physics
Although a lot of my writing about physics has been about Einstein and his work, the history of quantum mechanics comes up quite often as well. This not necessarily intentionally. Although generally associated with the names Heisenberg, Born, Schrödinger and Dirac, there is a lot of overlap in the history of quantum mechanics with other historical figures and topics. For instance, von Neumann is perhaps best known as a brilliant mathematician who did work on computing, game theory and AI—less so for being the person who formulated much of the mathematical foundation for quantum mechanics. Similar for Oppenheimer, who is known as the Head of the Manhattan Project and the Director of the IAS, not as a brilliant researcher on quantum mechanics in Göttingen in the 1920s—and one of Dirac’s closest friends. Indeed, as I tried to convey in my essay The Center of the Mathematical Universe, quite a few of the figures featured prominently in the history of 19th and early 20th-century mathematics and physics spend time in Göttingen during the time of the invention of quantum mechanics. Norbert Wiener even visited in 1925-26.
The following are the books I would acquire if I wanted to absorb the history of quantum mechanics as thoroughly and enjoyably as possible.
1. The Heroic Age: The Creation of Quantum Mechanics, 1925—1940 (2018)
by Robert D. Purrington
This is a beautiful book that anyone should want on their bookshelf. It covers the history of quantum mechanics through the lens of the scientific achievements from 1925-40.
Type: Narrative | Years: 1925-40 | Price: $82
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