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Werner Heisenberg

Important Terms and People

Plot Overview

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Terms

Copenhagen Institute  -   · One of the leading centers of physics research, headed by Niels Bohr. Heisenberg studied here and served as Bohr's assistant, during which time he did some of his crucial work in formulating quantum mechanics.
Core model  -   · Heisenberg's first attempt at explaining troublesome phenomena in the atom. While he succeeded in reconciling the Zeeman effect, in doing so he also discarded other established principles of quantum theory.
Determinism  -   ·  The belief, championed most famously by Einstein, that science would ultimately be able to predict all behavior once all the forces of nature were understood. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle directly opposed this, as it undermined the validity of causality.
Quantum mechanics  -   · The quantified study of the inner workings of the atom, based on the principles of quantum theory.
Quantum theory  -   · A theory that addresses the duality of matter and energy, which have the properties of both particles and waves. Specific theories such as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle contribute to this broader scheme.
Uncertainty principle  -   ·  Formulated by Heisenberg in 1927, this principle states that the velocity and position of an electron can never both be exactly determined, since the act of measurement necessarily disturbs the conditions.
Zeeman principle -   · Heisenberg's revision of one of Bohr's quantum postulates. He recognized that certain relationships that held only in classical mechanics would have to be replaced. He used this principle to refine the core model and thereby reconciled many of the current puzzles, earning himself an invitation to Copenhagen.

People

Niels Bohr  -  Perhaps Heisenberg's most influential mentor, he headed the Copenhagen Institute and helped to refine the work of Heisenberg, among many other young scientists.
Max Born  -  Another of Heisenberg's early mentors, he taught physics at Göttingen. Later on, he would recognize the matrix patterns of Heisenberg's work and help to establish quantum mechanics.
Albert Einstein  -  The most famous twentieth-century physicist, who differed from Heisenberg in two fundamental ways. First, Einstein never accepted uncertainty and believed that determinism was attainable. Second, he saw no justification for the separation of science and politics, and therefore used his international fame to campaign against the Nazis.
Annie Heisenberg  -  Heisenberg's mother.
August Heisenberg  -  Heisenberg's father.
Wolfgang Pauli  -  A physicist who came of age around the same time as Heisenberg and would remain a close collaborator throughout their careers.
Max Planck  -  One of Heisenberg's precursors in quantum theory, he would later collaborate with Heisenberg in attempts to save German physics at the onset of the Nazi regime. Planck encouraged Heisenberg not to resign his position and to instead wait out the Nazi reign to rebuild Germany after its inevitable defeat.
Erwin Schrödinger  -  He showed how electron behavior could be understood in terms of waves. Schrödinger's theory yielded the same mathematical results as Heisenberg's quantum mechanics, but their pictures of the atom differed fundamentally.
Elisabeth Schumacher -  Heisenberg's wife.
Ernest Sommerfeld  -  Head of theoretical physics at Munich, he was Heisenberg's first mentor in science. Sommerfeld also tried to appoint Heisenberg as his successor, but was thwarted by Heisenberg's Nazi opponents.
Willy Wien  -  The Munich professor who nearly failed Heisenberg during his oral examinations because he failed to demonstrate competence in experimental physics.

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