The first blog entirely devoted to the history of physics.

Anecdotes, philosophical issues, great discoveries, and much more from first-hand participants.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The fifth dimension

''At the end of the summer we went to Sweden to visit my mother before going back to Denmark, where Bohr had obtained a fellowship permitting me to stay in Copenhagen during a leave of absence from Michigan. However, due to my getting seriously ill — an infectious hepatitis — we had to stay in Sweden for a year, arriving in Copenhagen only at the beginning of March 1926. During that half year, when so much happened in physics (Heisenberg’s breakthrough in quantum mechanics, Goudsmit’s and Uhlenbeck’s paper on electron spin, Pauli’s matrix theory of the hydrogen atom, to mention the most important ones), I had hardly done any work on reading. But a few weeks before we went to Copenhagen, during a recreation trip, I had written out the summer’s work on five‐dimensional theory, leaving my quantal speculations for work in Copenhagen. As already mentioned, I started there with the simplest kind of wave equations and tried to work out the stationary states of the harmonic oscillator, when Schrodinger’s first wave mechanical paper appeared.

When Pauli came to Copenhagen some weeks later, I showed him my manuscript on five‐dimensional theory and after reading it he told me that Kaluza some years before had published a similar idea in a paper I had missed. So I looked it up but — as with de Broglie’s thesis, which Bohr had shown me in the summer of 1925 — I read it rather carelessly but quoted both, of course, in the paper I then wrote in a spirit of resignation.''

In Klein, “From My Life of Physics,” in Bethe et al., From a Life of Physics, pp. 77-78.

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