The End of the Certain World: The Life and Science of Max Born, the Nobel Physicist Who Ignited the Quantum Revolution

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9780470856635: The End of the Certain World: The Life and Science of Max Born, the Nobel Physicist Who Ignited the Quantum Revolution

Max Born (1882-1970), physicist, Nobel prize winner and close friend to Albert Einstein, was one of the brilliant minds of the twentieth century. An advocate of the new theories of Einstein and a researcher into the science that was to become quantum mechanics, he soon attracted a stream of brilliant young students around him at Frankfurt and Goettingen. This was a golden age of physics and a formative period for modern science, when many of the foundations of modern science were being sketched out in German cafes. Nine of Born's students went on to win Nobel prizes for their work, although four (two working for the Germans and two for the US) saddened him by working on the development of the atomic bomb.
In 1924 he published a paper entitled 'Quantum Mechanics' the first to label the research with this name. He played a crucial role in the development of the theory of quantum mechanics and of wave function.
In the 1930s he was forced to flee from Germany to escape the anti-Semitic policies of the nazis and continued his work first in Cambridge and then in Edinburgh, returning to Germany only on his retirement in the 1950s. He always resisted pressure to become involved in the use of science for destructive purposes, something that put him out of favour with the establishment. He spent much of his final years campaigning against the atomic bomb and against the unethical use of science. He wrote to Einstein of his sorrow 'that our science which is such a beautiful thing in itself and could be such a benefactor for human society, has been degraded to nothing but a means of destruction and death'.

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From the Inside Flap:

“ The world is not ruled by reason; even less by love,” Max Born wrote to his close friend Albert Einstein in 1921. Twelve years later, as the Nazis forced him to emigrate to Great Britain, he felt the personal impact of that statement. Even after the defeat of the Nazis, the explosion of the atom bomb inflicted a further blow. It was a cruel twist of fate that Born, a pacifist who loved science for its beauty, had educated the developers of the atom bomb. Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner and John von Neumann, among others, had flocked to Göttingen, Germany, to work with Born, the physicist who had discovered one of the most profound principles of the century – the physics of indeterminacy.

The End of the Certain World presents for the first time Born’s full story: Nobel physicist, a discoverer of quantum theory, exile from Hitler’s Germany, teacher of nine Nobel physicists. Born’s role in the “Golden Age of Physics” in the 1920s helped to shape the science of the twentieth century and open the door to the modern era. Together with his Wunderkinder – including his assistant Werner Heisenberg – Born solved the Quantum puzzle. But whereas Heisenberg received his Nobel Prize in 1933, Born was overlooked; he had to wait more than twenty years to receive one.

When Born finally did win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1954, it was awarded for his theory of the indeterminate nature of the atomic world. It was a validation on more than one level. He had a long  standing debate with Einstein on the subject, and Born’s position – that God does play dice – had been recognized; we indeed live in a world of uncertainty.

The End of the Certain World is a social history and a history of science as well as an intimate biography. Nancy Thorndike Greenspan unfolds the story of a great physicist and humanitarian, to reveal his struggle with the forces of religion, politics, and war.

 

From the Back Cover:

“Theoretical physics will flourish wherever you happen to be; there is no other Born to be found in Germany today.” – Albert Einstein to Max Born, March 3, 1920

“This is an insightful, moving, and beautifully written portrait of Max Born, a deeply sensitive man who in his long life experienced familial happiness and discord, professional success and injustice, political tranquillity and upheaval, and throughout it all made his mark as one of the leading theoretical physicists of the twentieth century.” – Roger H. Stuewer, Emeritus professor of physics, University of Minnesota

“I am so proud of my grandfather. Nancy Greenspan has written an incredible book! I learned how much my grandfather influenced the science and history of the twentieth century – from saving his fellow scientists from Hitler to debating Einstein on the uncertainty in the structure of the universe The book is a wonderfully informative heirloom – if I may use that word – not only for my family but for the world of science and humanity.” – Olivia Newton-John, granddaughter of Max Born

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