A Magic Wand

Helge Kragh

in Niels Bohr and the Quantum Atom

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654987
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741692 | DOI:
A Magic Wand

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In a major work of 1918 (‘On the quantum theory of line-spectra’) Bohr reconsidered the general principles of quantum and atomic theory. Apart from reinterpreting his original theory, he introduced the correspondence principle as a crucial connection between quantum and classical physics. What was the nature of this principle and what role did it play in the understanding of atomic structure? In applying the new principle, Bohr and his assistant H. A. Kramers relied on Einstein’s radiation theory. Bohr used the correspondence principle as a selection principle, and Kramers showed how it could account quantitatively for the Stark effect. However, not all physicists appreciated the Copenhagen ‘magic wand’ and Bohr’s use of it. Sommerfeld was the most prominent of the sceptics, but not the only one. The chapter also briefly considers the role of the correspondence principle in the early phase of the new quantum mechanics.

Keywords: correspondence principle; quantum theory; atomic structure; Stark effect; quantum mechanics; quantum physics; Albert Einstein; Hendrik Kramers; radiation theory

Chapter.  18453 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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