Max Born

Max Born ( born December 11, 1882 in Breslau, † January 5, 1970 in Göttingen ) was a German mathematician and physicist. For fundamental contributions to quantum mechanics, he was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Life and work

Max Born was born in Breslau in Silesia. He came from an upper middle class assimilated German - Jewish family. His father Gustav Born (1851-1900) was Professor of Anatomy and Embryology at the University of Breslau. After visiting the humanistic King Wilhelm Gymnasium Max Born studied from 1901 in Breslau, Heidelberg, Zurich, Cambridge ( with Joseph Larmor and JJ Thomson) and Göttingen first law and moral philosophy, and later mathematics, physics and astronomy. He received his doctorate in 1906 with David Hilbert in Göttingen ( Contributions for determining the refraction of light conditions birefringent crystals by prism observations), whose assistant he was physical. 1908/ 09 he studied with Otto Lummer and Ernst Pringsheim senior in Wroclaw experimental physics, but also dealt with the theory of relativity ( and specifically the theory of rigid body in relativity theory and theory of the electron ), which in 1909 earned him an invitation by Hermann Minkowski to Göttingen, where he habilitated in 1909 ( studies on the stability of the elastic line in plane and space, under various boundary conditions ). Soon after, Minkowski and died Born issued its physical works from the estate. Another field of research was the theory of atomic crystal lattice. About Here he published in 1915 the book dynamics of the crystal lattice. During this time he was involved as a soldier in the First World War in the artillery Examination Commission with sound positioning tests for the artillery. He tried at this time to withdraw, other physicists and mathematicians from the front line and thus save on the war. His staff included, for example, Alfred Landé, Erwin Madelung, Fritz Reiche.

Born was after the Habilitation first lecturer in Göttingen, was 1914/15 Associate Professor at the University of Frankfurt and in 1915 was then an associate professor of theoretical physics at the Friedrich- Wilhelms- University of Berlin, where he worked with Max Planck, Albert Einstein and Walther Nernst. In 1919 he received his first Chair ( full professor ) in Frankfurt, Germany (where he exchanged his chair with the Max von Laue, who went to Berlin).

Born from 1921 to 1933 was professor at Göttingen. Here he developed with Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, Pascual Jordan and Friedrich Hund large parts of modern quantum mechanics. According to him, said method such as the Born- Oppenheimer approximation in molecular physics (1928) and the Born approximation in the scattering theory remember his pioneering achievements. He developed the statistical interpretation of the wave function, which later became known as the Copenhagen interpretation and for which he was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1948, the Max Planck Medal he was awarded in 1950 the Hughes Medal.

Max Born was also involved in theoretical optics, about which he wrote with Emil Wolf which is still a major textbook.

1933, after obtaining the power of the National Socialists, Max Born was forced leave because of his Jewish ancestry and his pacifist attitude, because of the professional civil service law of the Hitler government. 1936 German citizenship was revoked. He emigrated to England ( 1939, he became a British citizen ) and initially had a lectureship at Cambridge from 1933, then from 1936 as a professor at the University of Edinburgh, where in 1953 he remained until his return to Germany. In addition, Born engaged for the Emergency Association of German scientists abroad to teach other academics tracked points. On June 28, 1953, he was made ​​an honorary citizen of Göttingen and was later also a street named after him. His grave is located at the Göttingen City Cemetery, although he last lived not in Göttingen but in the not far distant Bad Pyrmont.

In addition to his physical examinations, Max Born has repeatedly tried to gain with speeches on philosophical and socio-political issues are heard. He was a signatory to the 1957 Göttingen Manifesto, which argued against the nuclear arming of the Bundeswehr. In this context, he has repeatedly pointed to the important role played by his wife Hedwig for the development and review of its own viewpoints. Together with her, he wrote, among other things, the book " The luxury of conscience - experiences and insights in the Nuclear Age " (1958).

With Albert Einstein Born established a lifelong close friendship, even if Einstein Born's work on quantum theory skeptically. His correspondence with Einstein, which is interesting, among other things, the history of the interpretation of quantum mechanics, was published in book form.

Especially Born beginning of the 20th century is due to the formation of a fertile theoretical physicist school in Göttingen, which also includes many passing travelers, foreign physicists came. His doctoral include Maria Goeppert- Mayer, Victor Weisskopf, Robert Oppenheimer, Siegfried Flügge, Friedrich Hund, Pascual Jordan, Maurice Pryce ( in Cambridge ), Herbert S. Green ( Edinburgh ).

His son Gustav Victor Rudolf Born is a well-known British pharmacologist.

Awards and Affiliations

  • Born was a member of several scientific academies, the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, the Prussian Academy of Sciences and since 1958 also the Leopoldina.
  • He was nine honorary doctorates.


  • The DPG and the Institute of Physics award the Max Born Prize annually.
  • The Optical Society of America annually awards the Max Born Award for physical optics.
  • According to him, the Max -Born -Gymnasium in Germering near Munich, the Max -Born -Gymnasium in Backnang near Stuttgart, the Max -Born -Gymnasium in Neckargemuend, Max-Born -Realschule in Dortmund, the Max -Born - vocational college in Recklinghausen, the named Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy in Berlin and the Max -Born Secondary School in Bad Pyrmont - this not least because he has spent his last years in Bad Pyrmont in the Marcardstraße. Furthermore, carrying the building of the Physics Department at the Technical University of Dortmund his name.
  • In Hamburg -Bahr field a street is named after him, which actually should Hedwig and -Max - Born-Straße called by the political will of the district of Altona, what the Hamburg state government but refused. Also in the Bergheim district " Zieverich " in Berlin technology park " Adlershof ", in Bietigheim- Bissingen, in Dusseldorf - versts, in Frankfurt- Riedenberg in Karlsruhe- Wolfartsweier in Laatzen near Hanover, in Mainz- Hechtsheim, in Munich- Moosach and in the district of Potsdam " on star" streets are named after him.
  • The singer and actress Olivia Newton -John as well as the social scientist and musician Georgina Born a granddaughter of Max Born.
  • Born in 1955 was a co-signatory of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

Selected writings

  • Studies on the stability of the elastic line in plane and space, under various boundary conditions (PhD 1906)
  • Dynamics of the crystal lattice (1915 )
  • The relativity theory of Einstein (1920 ), Springer, ISBN 3-540-04540-6
  • Atomic theory of the solid state ( dynamics of the crystal lattice ). In: Encyclopedia of mathematical sciences with the inclusion of their applications. Leipzig 1922, pp. 35ff. (online).
  • Lectures on atomic mechanics (1925 ), MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-52019-2.
  • ( with Pascual Jordan ): For quantum mechanics. In: Journal of Physics 34, 1925, pp. 858ff. (English translation in: Sources of Quantum Mechanics Edited by BL van der Waerden, Amsterdam, 1967, pp. 277ff; online, PDF, 184 KB. . ).
  • ( with Werner Heisenberg and Pascual Jordan ): To Quantum Mechanics II In: Journal of Physics 35, 1926, pp. 557ff. (English translation in: Sources of Quantum Mechanics Edited by BL van der Waerden, Amsterdam 1967, pp. 321ff; online, PDF, 310 KB. . ).
  • For the wave mechanics of the shock processes. In: News from the Society of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematics and Physical Class, 1926, pp. 290 ff. ( January 14, 1927, online).
  • Optics. A textbook of the electromagnetic theory of light (1933 ), Reprint Springer 1972
  • Experiment and theory in physics (1943 )
  • With Kun Huang Dynamical Theory of Crystal Lattices, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1954
  • Physics changing my time (1957 )
  • The luxury of conscience ( co-author of Hedwig Born) (1958 )
  • Principles of Optics (along with Emil Wolf) (1959 )
  • From the responsibility of the scientist (1965 )
  • Max Born: My Life. The memories of the Nobel laureate. Nymphenburg Verlag, 1975, ISBN 3-485-00204-6.
  • Max Born, Albert Einstein, Albert Einstein, Hedwig and Max Born correspondence: 1916-1955 / commented by Max Born, preface by Bertrand Russell, foreword by Werner Heisenberg. Nymphenburg Verlag, Munich 1969, ISBN 3-499-11478- X.

Colloquium 1962/63

Was in the winter semester 1962/63, a colloquium was held on the occasion of the eightieth birthday of Max Born at the Physics Department of the University of Göttingen, lectured at the Werner Heisenberg about his time so-called " world formula " and Friedrich Hund present (both wizard Max Born in the twenties ). In the discussion after the lecture jumped Max Born, who had been sitting in the middle of the first bank, as a young athlete over the parapet and painted after a few words your own formulas on the blackboard. The formulas that were related to the so-called Born- Infeld theory in the thirties understood at that time, however, very few listeners, but that was not the intention: " For the young people," he wanted ( the octogenarian ( !)) Only some give suggestions.