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Werner Heisenberg

Werner Heisenberg.
Werner Karl Heisenberg (December 5, 1901 – February 1, 1976) was a celebrated German physicist and Nobel laureate, one of the founders of quantum mechanics. He was born in Würzburg, Germany and died in Munich. Heisenberg was the head of Germany's nuclear energy program, though the nature of this project, and his work in this capacity, has been heavily debated.

Heisenberg was born in Würzburg, Germany, the son of Dr. August Heisenberg and Annie Wecklein. He attended school in Munich and studied Physics at the University of Munich under, amongst others, Arnold Sommerfeld and Wilhelm Wien. As a young man, Heisenberg was a scout, an enthusiastic hiker and walker and greatly loved the outdoor life. In 1922 he studied physics at Göttingen where he was taught by Max Born and David Hilbert. His Ph.D. was from the University of Munich, following which, he joined Max Born at the University of Göttingen. In 1924 he began work on quantum mechanics with Niels Bohr, at the University of Copenhagen, where in 1926 he was given a Lecturership in Theoretical Physics. In 1927 he took the chair in theoretical physics at Leipzig. He won the Nobel Prize in 1932 for his work on quantum mechanics. In 1937 he married Elizabeth Schumacher.

He elected to remain in Germany during the Second World War, despite problems with the Nazi government. In 1941 he was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of Berlin. At the end of the Second World War he, and other German physicists, were captured by allied troops as part of Operation Alsos which targeted the capture of Axis nuclear scientists, which was part of a wider effort to capture the Axis powers' scientists for the military application of their knowledge in the looming Cold War.

After the end of WWII, Heisenberg toured various countries giving lectures including England, the United States and Scotland before moving to work in Munich at the Max Planck Institute for Physics. In 1955-56 he gave the Gifford Lectures at St. Andrews University, which resulted in the book Physics and Philosophy.

In 1957 Heisenberg together with Otto Hahn, Max von Laue, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker and Max Born formulated and signed a protest against nuclear arming of the German Armed Forces and world-wide nuclear armaments, the so-called "Göttingen Declaration of the German Nuclear Physicists".

He died on February 1, 1976.

Last Update: 2009-06-21