Calendar Curiosities: Happy Birthday, Herr Heisenberg
“You may object that by speaking of simplicity and beauty I am introducing aesthetic criteria of truth, and I frankly admit that I am strongly attracted by the simplicity and beauty of mathematical schemes which nature presents us. You must have felt this too: the almost frightening simplicity and wholeness of the relationship, which nature suddenly spreads out before us.”
Werner Heisenberg in a letter to Albert Einstein on why Beauty is Truth.
Born 5 Dec 1901
Died 1 Feb 1976
Werner Heisenberg was one of the seminal scientists of the 20th century. He was a theoretical physicist who defined quantum mechanics. He discovered that a particle’s position and velocity cannot be known at the same time. He also discovered that atomic nuclei are made of protons and neutrons.
A German physicist and philosopher, Heisenberg is remembered for his Uncertainty Principle, among other developments in quantum mechanics. He was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize for Physics.
Heisenberg’s huge quantum breakthrough occurred when, saddled with hay fever, he sought refuge in the pollenless sandstone cliffs of Heligoland. There, in 1925, he conceived the basis of the quantum theory.
In addition to his life-changing legacy, he has left his mark on our pop culture: Heisenberg has inspired a swath of pop cultural homage mentions, including Walter White’s alter ego in Breaking Bad, the Heisenberg Compensator in Star Trek, and mention in the show Big Bang Theory.