Monday’s Google Doodle honors physicist and mathematician Max Born, who was born on this day, December 11, in 1882. Today would have been his 135th birthday.
The son of Jewish parents in Germany, the Nobel-prize winning scientist created a theory that revolutionized predictions in quantum mechanics predictions and made many technological developments possible.
Who is Max Born?
Born studied physics and math at German universities, writing his dissertation at the University of Göttingen in 1906. He was drafted into the German army in 1915, where he published his first book, Dynamics of Crystal Lattices, while serving as an officer.
He wrote a book about Einstein’s theory of relativity that famously made the concept accessible to readers outside the scientific community.
Later, Born accepted a position as professor of theoretical physics at the University of Göttingen in 1921. His years at the university are considered his most creative. He remained there until the German government dismissed all Jews from their posts in April 1933. That’s when his family relocated to England.
He returned to a town near Göttingen following his retirement in 1953 and died there in 1970 at the age of 87.
Max Born’s Nobel Prize
Born won a Nobel Prize in 1954 along with Walther Bothe for their work on a theory that uses probability to predict the location of wave particles. Known as the Born Theory, this work based on matrices is the foundation of practically all quantum physics predictions today.
This breakthrough in quantum physics predictions made major technological developments possible, including lasers, MRIs, and computers.
Max Born quotes
Max Born was famously interested in the philosophical side of the sciences. “I am now convinced that theoretical physics is actually philosophy,” he said.
He became interested in the philosophy of science and the impact science has on humans. When he won the Nobel Prize in 1955, he made sure to have Nobel Laureates sign a statement outlining their concern about the dangers of future wars and mass destruction.
His work and attention to how science impacts humanity won him lots of acclaim. Born was an honorary member of academies in Russia, India, Romania, Peru, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden and the U.S.
Toward the end of his life he wrote several books about his thoughts on the relationship between science and philosophy.
“The belief that there is only one truth, and that oneself is in possession of it,” he wrote in Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance in 1964, “is the root of all evil in the world.”