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Born approximation


Max Born's papers on the theory of collision phenomena
Hans Bethe Scientist
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Born produced a theory of collision phenomena in which electrons certainly are particles but then the... this had to be reconciled with wave mechanics, and he produced a complete theory of collisions and at the same time he introduced the important concept of the probability interpretation of the Schrödinger wave function; the absolute square of the wave function gives you the probability of finding the electron at a certain point or with a certain momentum.

[Q] And you studied that paper as...

I studied that paper very carefully as it came out.

[Q] And there is a second paper which appears in the Göttingen Nachrichten which you then also study.

In the second paper he applied the theory to the elastic and inelastic scattering of electrons by hydrogen atoms, and that became the basis of one of my papers, in fact one I consider to be quite an important paper, which I used for [my] Habilitation. In Germany, after taking a Doctor's degree, you are still not entitled to teach at the university; you had to take a second exam and especially you had to submit a more advanced paper for Habilitation. I did that in 1930 after having taken my Doctor's degree in 1928.

The late German-American physicist Hans Bethe once described himself as the H-bomb's midwife. He left Nazi Germany in 1933, after which he helped develop the first atomic bomb, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967 for his contribution to the theory of nuclear reactions, advocated tighter controls over nuclear weapons and campaigned vigorously for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Listeners: Sam Schweber

Silvan Sam Schweber is the Koret Professor of the History of Ideas and Professor of Physics at Brandeis University, and a Faculty Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of a history of the development of quantum electro mechanics, "QED and the men who made it", and has recently completed a biography of Hans Bethe and the history of nuclear weapons development, "In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist" (Princeton University Press, 2000).

Tags: Göttingen Nachrichten, Habilitation, Max Born

Duration: 2 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008