Article ID: CBB001024241

Analogy, Extension, and Novelty: Young Schrödinger on Electric Phenomena in Solids (2011)


The analysis of Erwin Schrödinger's first major theoretical work demonstrates his early commitment to Boltzmann's statistical--mechanical tradition, which also influenced his later contributions to quantum theory. It further reveals two central elements of his research style: The extension and modification of works by others, and the extensive use of analogies. Schrödinger extended Debye's theory of liquid dielectrics using Langevin's and Weiss's theories of magnetism, taking a formal analogy between mathematical laws of two separate phenomena as an indication for a physical analogy between them. His approach followed his commitment to scientific realism. Schrödinger attributed reality to the basic assumptions of a theory and therefore explored their consequences in various domains. For him, accordance with experimental findings proved the correctness of his assumptions. Following this methodology, Schrödinger advanced a kinetic (i.e., statistical) theory of solid dielectrics. His 1912 theory explained the behavior of solid dielectrics in an external electric field, piezoelectricity, pyroelectricity, and the change of melting temperature with pressure. It even provided a microphysical explanation for solidification itself. These explanations, however, required several rather speculative and doubtful assumptions, stemming from Schrödinger's reliance on analogy. This illustrates one of the pitfalls of the use of analogies.

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Authors & Contributors
Boido, Guillermo
Rodríguez, Victor
Arias Avila, Nelson
Konagaya, Daisuke
Hilgevoord, Jan
Brush, Stephen G.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan
Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences
Physics in Perspective
Associação de Filosofia e História da Ciência do Cone Sul
MIT Press
Electromagnetic waves; radiation
Quantum mechanics
Scientific apparatus and instruments
Experiments and experimentation
Schrödinger, Erwin
Bohr, Niels Henrik David
Heisenberg, Werner
Pauli, Wolfgang Ernst
Dirac, Paul Adrien Maurice
Von Neumann, John
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
18th century
20th century
Vienna (Austria)
Cambridge (England)
Turin (Italy)
Great Britain

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