Article ID: CBB000931142

Crafting the Quantum: Arnold Sommerfeld and the Older Quantum Theory (2008)


Seth, Suman (Author)

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Volume: 39
Pages: 335--348

Publication Date: 2008
Edition Details: Part of a special issue: “Science and the Changing Senses of Reality circa 1900”.
Language: English

Arnold Sommerfeld (1868--1951) was among the most important students of the so-called `older' quantum theory. His many contributions included papers in 1915 and 1916 extending Niels Bohr's `planetary' model of the atom beyond circular orbits and his incorporation of relativistic corrections in order to explain hydrogenic fine structure. Originally a realist in his use of Bohr's model, Sommerfeld became increasingly disillusioned with model-building in general in the late nineteen-teens and early nineteen-twenties. This paper explores Sommerfeld's use of the term Zahlenmysterium (number mystery) as a self-description of his physical methodology. Rather than reading talk of mysticism as mere pandering to irrationalist forces in Weimar Germany, as some have suggested, I argue that one should see it as a genuine description of the scientific method Sommerfeld increasingly advocated throughout this period. That is, Sommerfeld drew upon and modified talk of Mystik as a means of expressing his own ideas on the importance of aesthetics in what might otherwise be cast as mere guesswork in his phenomenological spectroscopy. Mysticism, properly defined, was an integral part of what Sommerfeld termed die Technik der Quanten (`the craft of the quantum').

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Article Sibum, H. Otto (2008) Science and the Changing Senses of Reality circa 1900. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (p. 295). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Camilleri, Kristian
Seth, Suman
Duncan, Anthony
Janssen, Michel
Eckert, Michael
Hilgevoord, Jan
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan
Journal of Modern Literature
European Physical Journal H
MIT Press
Oxford University Press
Cambridge University Press
Quantum mechanics
Philosophy of science
Methodology of science; scientific method
Bohr, Niels Henrik David
Sommerfeld, Arnold Johannes Wilhelm
Heisenberg, Werner
Einstein, Albert
Schrödinger, Erwin
Pauli, Wolfgang Ernst
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century
Weimar Republic (1919-1933)
University of Tokyo
Kyōto Daigaku (Kyoto University)

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