Article ID: CBB446852324

Quantum Explorers: Bohr, Jordan, and Delbrück Venturing into Biology (2015)


This paper disentangles selected intertwined aspects of two great scientific developments: quantum mechanics and molecular biology. We look at the contributions of three physicists who in the 1930s were protagonists of the quantum revolution and explorers of the field of biology: Niels Bohr, Pascual Jordan, and Max Delbrück. Their common platform was the defense of the Copenhagen interpretation in physics and the adoption of the principle of complementarity as a way of looking at biology. Bohr addressed the problem of how far the results reached in physics might influence our views about life. Jordan and Delbrück were followers of Bohr’s ideas in the context of quantum mechanics and also of his tendency to expand the implications of the Copenhagen interpretation to biology. We propose that Bohr’s perspective on biology was related to his epistemological views, as Jordan’s was to his political positions. Delbrück’s propensity to migrate was related to his transformation into a key figure in the history of twentieth-century molecular biology.

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Authors & Contributors
Duncan, Anthony
Janssen, Michel
Camilleri, Kristian
Sloan, Phillip R.
Beyler, Richard H.
McKaughan, Daniel J.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
European Physical Journal H
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
World Scientific
W. W. Norton & Co.
University of Chicago Press
Oxford University Press
MIT Press
Quantum mechanics
Molecular biology
Bohr, Niels Henrik David
Jordan, Pascual
Delbrück, Max
Heisenberg, Werner
Schrödinger, Erwin
Born, Max
Time Periods
20th century, early
20th century
19th century
Central Europe: Germany, Austria, Switzerland
United States
Great Britain
Universität zu Köln. Institut für Genetik

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