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Wolfgang Pauli

(1900—1958) Austrian-born American physicist


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(1900–1958)

Austrian-born US physicist who discovered the exclusion principle. For this work he was awarded the 1945 Nobel Prize for Physics.

The son of a physician, Pauli was educated at the University of Munich where, under the supervision of Arnold Sommerfeld, he gained his PhD in 1921. After a year in Copenhagen with Niels Bohr, Pauli taught briefly at the University of Hamburg before moving in 1928 to the chair of physics at the Zürich Federal Institute of Technology. Apart from the war years, spent in the USA at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton, and despite becoming a US citizen in 1946, Pauli remained in Zürich for the rest of his life.

Pauli established his reputation as a physicist while still in his early twenties. An early book on relativity published in 1922 was extravagantly praised by Albert Einstein. It was followed, three years later, by Pauli's exclusion principle, stating that no two electrons can be in the same quantum state. This principle produced an enormous simplification in the foundations of physics. In 1930 Pauli solved the problem of the missing energy in beta decay by proposing that a small neutral particle is emitted with the electron or positron. This particle, later named the neutrino by Fermi, was first detected by Frederick Reines (1918– ) in 1953.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics.


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