Article ID: CBB001320914

Speaking of Lessons from the History of Science, Does the Name “Hermann” Ring a Bell? (2008)


I have recently become interested in the work of Grete Hermann, with particular interest in her disproof of the widely accepted theorem by John von Neumann that purported to prove the impossibility of hidden variable theory in quantum mechanics. 2 While thinking about her contributions, I have also been led to speculate about how the subsequent development of quantum mechanics and our present interpretation of quantum theory would have differed if her work had been appreciated and fully recognized by the physics establishment at the time, instead of being ignored for nearly 30years until John Bell rediscovered von Neumann's error, 3 took up her work, and brought it to the attention of the physics community. This episode suggests that we should heed George Santayana's famous saying: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. 4 The history of science should have a role in physics education so it can provide a sometimes much-needed correction to the development and progress of science.


Description A note on Grete Hermann's contributions to quantum physics and how they had been largely ignored until thirty years later a male physicist drew upon her work to substantiate similar conclusions.

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Authors & Contributors
Bernstein, Jeremy
Crull, Elise
Bacciagaluppi, Guido
Becker, Adam
Zanghi, Nino
Whitaker, Andrew
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Physics in Perspective
European Physical Journal H
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
Princeton University Press
Oxford University Press
Kluwer Academic
Quantum mechanics
Atomic, nuclear, and particle physics
Mathematical physics
Von Neumann, John
Bell, John Stewart
Heisenberg, Werner
Pauli, Wolfgang Ernst
Bohr, Niels Henrik David
Schrödinger, Erwin
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
Copenhagen (Denmark)
Northern Ireland

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