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
Rédei, Miklós
Stöltzner, Michael
Crull, Elise
Bacciagaluppi, Guido
Bitsakis, Eftichios
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Physics in Perspective
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
European Physical Journal H
Princeton University Press
Kluwer Academic
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Oxford University Press
Quantum mechanics
Mathematical physics
Atomic, nuclear, and particle physics
Von Neumann, John
Bell, John Stewart
Heisenberg, Werner
Bohr, Niels Henrik David
Pauli, Wolfgang Ernst
Schrödinger, Erwin
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
Northern Ireland
Copenhagen (Denmark)

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