December 11, 1882 – January 5, 1970
A Pioneer of Quantum Mechanicsby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
The twentith century brought great conflict between world powers known as the World Wars. In Germany, the Jewish scientist Max Born was forced to render military services and was affected by Germany's shameful treatment of the Jewish people. But despite these things Born was able to pursue his love for science and make discoveries that revolutionized physics.
Max Born was entered the world on December 11, 1882 in Breslau, Germany. His father, Gustav Born, studied embryology at the University of Breslau. His mother's name was Margarete. Unfortunately, young Max suffered from frequent colds and asthma. By an early age, Born had gained an attraction to music from his mother who had died when Max was only four years old. His father hired a governess for his son and daughter after the death of Margarete. However, Mr. Born married again in 1890. Max and his sister never managed to gain a genuine love for their new mother. 1
Max pursued his education at Konig Wilhelm Gymnasium in Breslau and took up studies in many different subjects ranging from physics to Latin, Greek and German. Later on in 1901, He attended the University of Breslau. His main areas of interest were math, astronomy and physics. After this he took up studies at Gottingen, he had the opportunity to sit in on lectures by men like David Hilbert and Herman Minkowski. In 1905 he took up the duties of assisting Hilbert. Max continued go to lectures where subjects like elasticity and electrodynamics were discussed. Perhaps one of Born's most edifying experiences were the walks he took with Hilbert and Minkowski where they would talk about many topics including philosophy, politics and the like. In 1907, Born earned his PhD in physics.
After his graduation, Born was required to participate in military services. However, his frail health and difficulties with asthma prevented him from serving a full term. But for the short period of time he was there, Born developed a hatred for the military. 2
Afterward, Born read a publication of Albert Einstein on relativity which was released 1905. He was immediately fascinated by it and attempted to relate the works of Einstein and Minkowski. Born and Einstein, both nominal Jews and brilliant mathematicians, developed a friendship with each other and spent time playing music together. Max became a professor and Gottingen and one year later, was given a chair in Berlin. However, his stay in Berlin in 1914 overlapped World War I. Despite His hate for the military, Born was again required to participate in its endeavors. He worked on a radio operator that could be used by the German air force. He then managed to escape from active duty by offering to research for a device that could provide sound ranging for the artillery. Relieved to be free from active military service, Born encouraged others to participate in his research. 3
In 1912 Max married a descendent of Martin Luther named Hedi. They were married by a Lutheran pastor who two years later would baptize Max into the the Christian faith. Far from being a messianic Jew who fell in love with Rabbi Yeshua (Jesus), Max was merely one of the millions of Jews who no considered assimilation of more importance than their Jewish faith. As Max explained,
there were...forces pulling in the opposite direction [to my own feelings]. The strongest of these was the necessity of defending my position again and again, and the feeling of futility produced by these discussions [with Hedi and her mother]. In the end I made up my mind that a rational being as I wished to be, ought to regard religious professions and churches as a matter of no importance.... It has not changed me, yet I never regretted it. I did not want to live in a Jewish world, and one cannot live in a Christian world as an outsider. However, I made up my mind never to conceal my Jewish origin.7
In the course of his scientific studies, Max developed the First Law of Thermodynamics which is the idea that the change in energy in an system is equal to the heat added to a system minus the work done by the system. 4 In 1936, Born collaborated with Wolfgang Pauli and Werner Heisenberg on the development of quantum physics. In fact, Born actually came up with the name "quantum physics" and formed his own interpretation called the "Copenhagen Interpretation". In the quantum theory of atoms, electrons were originally thought to be particles, but Born helped to discover a mathematical description of electrons that was much more accurate. Born also showed the statistical and physical importance of the quantum mechanical wave equation. In 1933, Born was forced to flee Germany because of Hitler's campaign against the Jews. He went on to become a lecturer at Cambridge University. Born finally retired in 1953 and returned the Germany where he took up residence in Bad Pyrmont. Here, along with Hedi, he affiliated with German Quakers and worked with Einstein to prevent nuclear proliferation. It was during this time that he received the Nobel Prize, "for his fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially for his statistical interpretation of the wave function." 5
Despite the hostilities to the Jews in Germany during the World Wars, Born became an incredibly successful scientist. His endeavors helped to lay the foundation for many future scientific advances. It is good to study science and learn about the wonders of creation. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork" 6. Nature attests to God's magnificence. By learning about creation through study of science as Max Born did, one can gain insight into the character of God. Although Einstein had said, "For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions." He also said, "I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”
Endnotes and Bibliography
Nobel Prize.org. Max Born." World History. Access Date: 4 Dec. 2008 <http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1954/born-bio.html>
Adherents.com. The Religious Affiliation of Theoretical Physicist Max Born." World History. Access Date: `10 Dec. 2008 <http://www.adherents.com/people/pb/Max_Born.html>