The End of the Certain World: The Life and Science of Max Born

The End of the Certain World: The Life and Science of Max Born

by Nancy Thorndike Greenspan
     
 

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

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Overview

In 1920, Albert Einstein wrote to Max Born, “Theoretical physics will flourish wherever you happen to be; there is no other Born to be found in Germany today.” 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” helped to shape the science of the twentieth century and open the door to the modern era. Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, and Eugene Wigner, among others, flocked to Göttingen, Germany in the 1920’s to work with Born, the physicist who had discovered one of the most profound principles of the century - the physics of indeterminacy. In a cruel twist of fate Born, a pacifist who loved science for its beauty, had educated these renowned scientists who developed the atom bomb. Not everyone embraced Born’s revolutionary quantum principle. Throughout much of his forty year friendship with Einstein, the two debated the nature of the universe - deterministic versus non-deterministic - with Einstein declaring “God does not play dice”, even though the Nobel Committee supported Born’s position when they awarded him the 1954 Prize. A social history and a history of science as well as an intimate biography, The End of the Certain World reveals the story of a great physicist and humanitarian and his struggle with the forces of religion, politics, and war during the upheavals of the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
German physicist Max Born (1882-1970) was Werner Heisenberg's mentor on the experiments in quantum mechanics that earned Heisenberg the 1932 Nobel Prize and enduring fame; one of the most valuable contributions of Greenspan's biography, the first ever of Born, is an analysis of the backstage considerations that excluded Born from sharing in that honor. (He was recognized more than 20 years later for related research.) Although Born's theoretical breakthroughs get some explanation, Greenspan is much more concerned with the human drama behind the science, and, granted access by the family to Born's papers, she uses them to significant effect in drawing out her tale. Born's struggle for full recognition from his peers is placed in the context of the anti-Semitic milieu of early 20th-century Germany and a turbulent marriage that at one point resulted in a nervous breakdown. When the Nazis took power, Born was forced to resign his university post and flee with his family to England; his efforts as a refugee to regain personal and professional stability provide some of the biography's most poignant moments. This empathetic work, Greenspan's first solo effort, lifts a deserving figure out of semi-obscurity and adds a valuable perspective on the origin of modern physics. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780738206936
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
02/28/2005
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 9.70(h) x 1.27(d)

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What People are saying about this

Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John, granddaughter of Max Born
"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."
Roger H. Stuewer
Roger H. Stuewer, emeritus professor of physics, University of Minnesota
"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 tranquility and upheaval, and through it all made his mark as one of the leading theoretical physicists of the twentieth century."

Meet the Author

Nancy Thorndike Greenspan has co-authored three books with her husband, child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan. She has spent the past four years gathering, translating, and cataloging documents from archives around the world for The End of the Certain World. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

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