A man of Germany : acceptable uncertainties in a time of war
Gallagher, John Bernard
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During the week of September 15, 1941, Niels Bohr and Wemer Heisenberg met secretly in Copenhagen, Denmark. These Nobel physicists worked together in the 1920s to construct a new quantum physics. The Copenhagen Interpretation consisted of statistical quantum mechanics, the Uncertainty Principle, and Complimentarity, which revolutionized perceptions of atomic phenomena and challenged the scientific community with their conceptions of classical Newtonian causality. At the time of the meeting, Germany occupied Denmark and Heisenberg led the German effort to develop practical applications of nuclear fission. Bohr’s and Heisenberg’s meeting ended with anger and frustration leading to the separation, personally and professionally, of these two men. Owing to a lack of documentation and the varying opinions over the events of 1941, I propose to use the scientific principle of uncertainty, developed by Heisenberg in 1927, as a metaphor to broaden our understanding of the meeting between these men. Instead of using the two pairs of conjugate variables, as defined by the Uncertainty Principle, I will use four-square variables that allows for an alternate interpretation of the 1941 Bohr-Heisenberg meeting. The four-square variables involve aspects of Werner Heisenberg’s life. These are the development of his scientific work, the formation of the scientific community through collaboration, the social, cultural, and political context of Germany, and the personal and professional relationship between other physicists and between Bohr and Heisenberg themselves. My thesis seeks to determine what was said between these men that led to the disruption to their relationship. My conclusions limit the indeterminacy of the event and brings a level of acceptable uncertainties that illustrate above all that Heisenberg was a man of Germany.