Wolfgang Ernst Pauli


There are a lot of notable names in the field of quantum physics and you better believe that all of the people who are involved in that list are some of the best brains the world has ever encountered. After all, to excel in quantum physics, you have to have a deep love for science and a very analytic brain. One such person who is well-known in the field of quantum physics is Wolfgang Ernst Pauli. He is a theoretical physicist from Austria and was one of the people who pioneered the study of quantum physics. But his achievements do not stop there because in the year 1945, he was nominated by none other than Albert Einstein himself and he won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Indeed, he was a man of many achievements and is one person that deserves to be lauded.

His life

This Nobel Prize winner was born in Vienna on April 25, 1900 and his father was a chemist names Wolfgang Joseph Pauli and his mother was Bertha Camilla Schutz. His middle name came from his godfather who was the physicist Ernst Mach. One can almost say that with this kind of company, he was destined for a great career involving science. Pauli’s grandparents were from Prague and were prominent Jewish families; his great grandfather was Wolf Pascheles who just happened to be a great Jewish publisher.

His father, the chemist Wolfgang Pauli grew in in the Jewish religion but converted to the Roman Catholic Church in the year 1899 a few months before he got married to Schutz. Ernst Pauli himself was raised in the religion of his mother’s religion though he and his family eventually left the church. In the end, he was considered more of a deist and mystic.

Pauli went to the Doplinger-Gymnasium located in Vienna where he graduated with honors. Two months after he graduated, he came out with his first paper and it was on Einstein’s theory of general relativity which really isn’t the easiest thing to understand but he did a great enough job that his work was published. Later on, he enrolled in Ludwig-Maximilians University located in Munich and he received his Ph.D. while working for Arnold Sommerfeld. His thesis was on the quantum theory of molecular hydrogen that had been ionized.

Sommerfeld then asked Pauli to take up theory of relativity and have it reviewed so it could be put in the Encyklopadie der mathematischen Wissenschaften. Only two months after he received his doctorate, he was able to complete the article which was a whopping 237 pages. Not only was it published as a monograph but it also received praise from the great Albert Einstein. Up until today, his work is looked upon as a standard reference of the subject.

But he wasn’t done because Pauli also spend a year at the Gottingen University and worked as assistant to Ma Born and in the following year, he moved to Copenhagen to do work at the institute of Theoretical Physics (this later became the Neils Bohr Institute). From the year 1923 to the year 1928, he took on the role of lecturer at the University of Hamburg and it was during this time that Pauli became instrumental to the development of what is to be known as modern theory of quantum physics. His greatest contribution was to formulate the exclusion principle and come up with the nonrelativistic spin theory.

In the year 1928, he was given the job of professor of Theoretical Physics in Zurich and wouldn’t you know it, he came up with a lot of scientific advances. He was so well known that he even went to Princeton and University of Michigan as a visiting professor. In the year 1931 he was awarded the Lorentz medal.

During the end of the 30s, shortly after he got divorced and after his postulation of the neutrino, he suffered a serious breakdown and this was how he met psychiatrist Carl Jung who was also living in Zurich at the time. After Jung started interpreting Pauli’s archetypal dreams, Pauli then became one of his very best students but it wasn’t long before Pauli started to put forward criticisms of Jung’s epistemology. You can check Jung’s interpretations and analyses of Pauli’s dreams by checking out Psychology and Alchemy.

Scientific Research

Ernst Pauli made a lot of contributions to the field of quantum physics and though he seldom came up with papers for publishing, a lot of his thoughts and ideas have been preserved in paper due to the fact that he liked sending length letters to his peers. He was very close to Werner Heisenberg and Neils Bohr.

In the year 1924, he proposed the quantum number which was also known as the quantum degree of freedom that had two possible values. He did this so he could finally solve whatever inconsistencies there was with molecular spectra and the theory of quantum physics which was developing at the time. He came up with the Pauli Exclusion Principle and a lot of people agree that it was his most important work.

His personality and personal life

When it came to Physics, he was a known perfectionist when it came to his work and to the works of his colleagues. It was because of this that the physics community gave him the title “conscience of physics”. If ever he found a theory lacking, he was quite brutal in his dismissal of the work and he wasn’t shy to let people know that their work was completely and utterly wrong.

He was also quite frank with his colleagues and while some found him somewhat arrogant, he was still able to form friendships with some of the most notable names of his time and this included Paul Ehrenfest. However, there were those that he rubbed the wrong way and Heisenberg was one of them. The rift between the two was so great that Heisenberg did not even go to Pauli’s funeral when he died on December 15, 1958.

Though he managed to get married twice, he never had any kids with either of his wives.