Max Born

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Max Born, Nobel Prize winning German physicist

Max Born (1882-1970) was a Nobel Prize-winning German Lutheran-convert physicist who helped discover quantum mechanics in the 1920s.[1] Born into a Jewish family as one of two children to parents Professor Gustav Born (anatomist and embryologist) and his wife Margarete (daughter of industrialists). Born was first educated at the König Wilhelm Gymnasium, then at the University of Wrocław, then Heidelberg University and then the University of Zurich.

One of Born's granddaughters was the popular singer and actress Olivia Newton-John.

Max Born was the recipient of a famous letter by Albert Einstein that declared about quantum mechanics in December 1926:

The theory produces a good deal but hardly brings us closer to the secret of the Old One. I am at all events convinced that He does not play dice.[2]

Teaching appointments

His first professorial appointment came at the University of Frankfurt-on-Main. He then taught theoretical physics at the University of Göttingen during 1921 – 1933. When the Nazi racial laws started taking effect in Germany in 1933 he fled to Britain where he taught principally at the University of Edinburgh from 1936 – 1953. During 1953 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.[3]


In 1921 he was able to give a very precise definition of the quantity of heat and the most satisfactory mathematical statement of the law of thermodynamics. His most famous achievement came in 1926 when he collaborated with one of his students, Werner Heisenberg, to develop a mathematical formulation that would describe Heisenberg's first laws of the new quantum theory (matrix mechanics).

Born was reportedly quite disappointed not to be honored with at least a shared Nobel Prize for Physics in 1932, which was given to Heisenberg. But in 1954, Born was granted a shared Nobel Prize for Physics (with Walther Bothe) for their work on the statistical interpretation of quantum theory.[4]

Born died January 5, 1970 in Göttingen, Germany.

Notes & References

  1. Nobel Prize - Max Born biography
  2. (this source italicizes the "He" but others do not)
  3. Max Born Institute - Vita of Max Born