Werner Heisenberg

Werner Heisenberg, creator of the famous Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, was born in
Würzburg, Germany, in 1901. At the age of 23, Heisenberg put forward his theory of
quantum mechanics that addressed problems associated with the Bohr-Rutherford
model of the atom. He received the Nobel Prize for Physics for this work in 1932.
In 1926 Heisenberg won a position as a lecturer in theoretical physics at the University of
Copenhagen and began a remarkably fruitful collaboration with Niels Bohr that
resulted in the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Heisenberg
returned to Germany a year later to accept a position at the University of Leipzig; at 26,
he was the youngest full professor in Germany. He married Elizabeth Schumacher in
1937. They had seven children.

The onset of WWII put Heisenberg in a difficult position. He was a German patriot
actively involved with youth groups like the “New Boy Scouts” that sought to
regenerate the noble spirit of Germany after the devastation it had suffered in WWI.
Professionally, he initially resisted the Nazi’s attempts to impose their vision of “purity” on
German academic life, but chose to remain in Germany when many other scientists
chose to leave during the 1930s. Heisenberg later maintained that his desire to
preserve whatever he could of Germany’s scientific heritage compelled him to stay
behind along with his colleague Max Planck.

When war broke out in 1939, Heisenberg was made the director of the German atomic
bomb project, which ended in failure in 1942. After the war he and his colleagues on
the project were imprisoned at Farm Hall in England for six months and their
conversations were secretly recorded. Returning to Germany after his release,
Heisenberg established the new Max Planck Institute out of the ashes of the former
Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics. He continued to work and lecture in a variety of
positions in West Germany and frequently represented his country abroad. He died in

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