Max Born

(1882—1970) physicist

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German physicist, who was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Physics for his statistical interpretation of wave mechanics.

Born in Breslau, the son of a professor of anatomy at Breslau University, Born was educated at a variety of German universities before gaining his PhD from Göttingen in 1907. He remained at Göttingen, becoming professor of physics in 1921, until he was expelled by the Nazis in 1933. He then left Germany for Britain, where he first spent some time teaching at Cambridge and visited India for a year to lecture at Raman's Institute of Physics in Bangalore. On his return to Britain in 1936 Born was appointed Tait Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University, where he remained until his retirement to Bad Pyrmont, a spa near Göttingen.

Born was originally concerned with the elastic properties of solids but his most original contribution to physics was his proposal, made in the 1920s, to replace determinism in quantum mechanics with the concept of probability waves, arguing that the position of, say, an electron cannot be given deterministically; theory can only state its most probable position. This argument was never accepted by his friend, Albert Einstein, and their conflict over the issue was published posthumously in the Born–Einstein Letters (1971). Born was the author of several physics textbooks in English.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics.

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