Erwin Schrödinger

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Erwin Schrödinger (1933)

Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger (born August 12, 1887 in Vienna - Erdberg ; † January 4, 1961 in Vienna- Alsergrund ) was an Austrian physicist and scientific theorist .

Schrödinger is considered one of the founders of quantum mechanics and received the Nobel Prize in Physics together with Paul Dirac in 1933 for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory .


Memorial plaque at the Vienna Academic Gymnasium

Erwin Schrödinger's father Rudolf Schrödinger (1857–1919) was an oilcloth manufacturer and botanist . His mother Georgine Emilia Brenda (1867–1921) was the daughter of Alexander Bauer , professor of general chemistry at the Imperial and Royal Technical University in Vienna. His father was Catholic, his mother Evangelical Lutheran. The children were brought up in the Protestant denomination .

Schrödinger went to the academic high school in 1898 . He then studied mathematics and physics in Vienna from 1906 to 1910 and received his doctorate under Franz Serafin Exner in 1910 and qualified as a professor at the Vienna Physics Institute in 1914. There he worked with Franz-Serafin Exner, Friedrich Hasenöhrl and KWF Kohlrausch , among others . During his studies he was close friends with the botanist Franz Frimmel .

After participating in the First World War , he was appointed to Jena (1920), Stuttgart (1920), Breslau (1921) and Zurich (1922). In Zurich he represented the chair for theoretical physics , which Albert Einstein and Max von Laue had held before him . Here he also formulated the Schrödinger equation named after him , which he discovered at the end of 1925 during a holiday in Arosa . With this he founded wave mechanics as a description of quantum mechanics .

In 1927 Schrödinger went to Berlin , where he succeeded Max Planck at the Friedrich Wilhelms University . Numerous world-class physicists gathered in Berlin during those years. There he worked a. a. together with Victor Weisskopf . After the seizure of power of the Nazis in 1933, Schrödinger decided who had brought earlier in remarkable clarity his rejection of Nazism expressed to leave Germany and a place at Magdalen College in Oxford to accept. In the same year he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

In 1936 he returned to Austria to accept an appointment at the Karl Franzens University in Graz . His behavior during the Anschluss in 1938 is contradictory: Although he had already emerged as a Nazi opponent in Berlin, he initially assumed that he would be able to keep his Graz professorship and published an article on March 31, 1938 in the “Grazer Tagespost” with the Title The hand of everyone willing. Commitment to the Führer - an outstanding scientist reports to serve the people and homeland . Schrödinger, who apparently felt safe, spent the summer holidays of 1938 in the Dolomites , where he met Max Planck, among others. In a note from the new National Socialist university management, Schrödinger was described as “technically excellent”, “contradicting personal behavior” and politically “semitophile”; his professorship was re-advertised by the Ministry during the 1938 vacation without the knowledge of the responsible dean Karl Polheim . On August 26, he was finally released for "political unreliability" and traveled to Rome on September 14, 1938 by train.

Schrödinger went to Dublin , where he worked from 1940 and was director of the school for theoretical physics of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies . In 1943 he gave his famous "Schrödinger lectures" at Trinity College there . In 1949 he became a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and an external member of the Royal Society .

Erwin Schrödinger's grave in Alpbach in Tyrol

In 1956 he returned to Vienna. Here he taught at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Vienna until his death . Schrödinger also took part in the university days in Alpbach . Since he liked the place, he spent his last years here. His daughter Ruth Braunizer lived in the Tyrolean village until her death in 2018. Erwin Schrödinger died of tuberculosis on January 4, 1961 in Vienna . According to his wishes, he was buried in Alpbach in Tyrol . The grave cross is inscribed with the equation that bears his name.


On April 6, 1920 he married Annemarie Bertel, called Annie. The marriage remained childless. Schrödinger and his wife Annie lived in an open relationship - Schrödinger had open extramarital relationships, for example with the wife of his colleague and friend Arthur March , and Annie had a long-term relationship with Hermann Weyl , which did not disturb the friendship between Weyl and Schrödinger. He had a daughter with Hildegunde March (Ruth Braunizer, 1934-2018); both lived with Schrödinger in Dublin from 1939 to 1945.


Erwin Schrödinger's bust with his equation in the hall of honor in the courtyard arcades of the
University of Vienna

1926 formulated Schrödinger named after him Schrödinger equation . The access to quantum mechanics that Schrödinger found with the help of this partial differential equation came a little later than Heisenberg's matrix mechanics, but has the advantage that he uses the mathematics known from classical mechanics. This work brought him world fame and eventually the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933. In this famous series of articles (Annalen der Physik Vol. 79, p. 361, 489, 734, and Vol. 81, p. 109, 1926) he also immediately proved the equivalence of his formulation with the matrix mechanics of Heisenberg and Born .

The examination of the work of Ernst Mach led him to occupy himself with the theory of color perception. He soon became a recognized expert in this field . He also examined color spaces with special metrics and thus gave important theoretical suggestions, for example in the development of the later XYZ color space of the CIE . The additive color mixing follows the rules of vector addition, which is why Schrödinger introduced vector representation in color measurement.

Schrödinger also commented on philosophical aspects of quantum mechanics. In his 1944 work Was ist Leben? (in the original What is Life? ) he introduces the concept of negentropy . She had a major impact on scientists like Maurice Wilkins , Francis Crick, and James D. Watson in developing molecular biology at the time, trying to explain biological issues physically and drawing attention to the then-unknown mechanism of inheritance for which he developed the Coined the term “aperiodic crystal”, which he imagined as a protein at the time of publication. At that time he was relatively isolated in Dublin and did not know the early research of Oswald Avery, for example, on the role of DNA and Max Delbrück on bacteriophages in the USA, but his book, which is also stylistically outstanding, asked the right questions in the retrospective of Freeman Dyson at the right time .

His best-known thought experiment is Schrödinger's cat , with which he transferred the counterintuitive effects of quantum mechanics to objects in everyday life and thus wanted to express his rejection of the usual statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics.

He also published 50 other publications on various topics. In the last years of his life he dealt intensively with generalizations of the general theory of relativity (" unified field theories "), about which he also corresponded with Albert Einstein - but the relationship cooled when Schrödinger expressed his enthusiasm for his theory in exaggerated press releases.

Awards and memberships

In 1950 Schrödinger was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . In 1956 he was accepted into the order Pour le Mérite and was the first winner of the Erwin Schrödinger Prize of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, named after him .

In 1920 Erwin Schrödinger was awarded the Haitinger Prize of the Academy of Sciences in Vienna . In 1957 he received the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art from the Republic of Austria . In 1937 he was awarded the Max Planck Medal .


Schrödinger as the namesake

Erwin Schrödinger on the 1000 Schilling banknote from 1983

Banknote and postage stamp

  • From 1983 to 1997 Schrödinger's likeness was on the Austrian 1000 Schilling banknotes of the 1983 series , the notes with the highest nominal value in Austria at the time.
  • In 1987, the year of his 100th birthday, a special postage stamp was issued by the Austrian Post.

Writings and sound recordings

  • Collected Essays (Collected papers). Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences Vienna, Vieweg, Braunschweig & Wiesbaden 1984, four volumes
    • Vol. 1: Contributions to statistical mechanics
    • Vol. 2: Contributions to field theory
    • Vol. 3: Contributions to quantum theory
    • Vol. 4: Generally scientific and popular articles
  • Wave mechanics - Stuttgart: Battenberg, cop. 1963. (Documents of the natural sciences. Physics department; Vol. 3) (Schrödinger's work on wave mechanics) - The work on wave mechanics is also reprinted in Ludwig (Hrsg.) Wellenmechanik , WTB.
  • Four lectures on wave mechanics , Springer Verlag 1928 (held at the Royal Institution, London)
  • Structure of space-time , Scientific Book Society (English "Space-time structure" 1963, introduction to general relativity theory)
  • Statistical Thermodynamics , vieweg 1978
  • Letters on wave mechanics . Schrödinger with Planck · Einstein · Lorentz. Edited on behalf of the Austrian Academy of Sciences by K. Przibram
  • A discovery of extraordinary significance - Schrödinger's correspondence on wave mechanics and the cat paradox . Edited by K. von Meyenn. Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg, 2011, ISBN 978-3-642-04334-5
  • My life, my worldview . Verlag Zsolnay, Vienna 1985, ISBN 3-552-03712-8 and Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich, 3rd edition, 2008, ISBN 978-3-423-34273-5
  • Nature and the Greeks . Zsolnay Verlag, Vienna 1987, ISBN 3-552-00742-3 ( Sherman Lectures at University College, London, May 24, 26, 28 and 30, 1948)
  • What is life - Looking at the living cell through the eyes of the physicist . Leo Lehnen Verlag ( Dalp Collection 1), Munich, 1951, 2nd edition.
  • What is matter? Scientific American, 189, (1953), 52-57
  • What is matter , 2-CD set, 86 minutes, original sound recordings, supposé Cologne, ISBN 3-932513-30-4
  • What is a law of nature? Contributions to the scientific worldview . Scientia nova, 5th edition, Oldenbourg, Munich 1997, ISBN 978-3-486-56293-4 .
  • Mind and matter . Diogenes-Taschenbuch, Volume 21782, Zurich 1989, ISBN 3-257-21782-X .


  • Karl von Meyenn:  Schrödinger, Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 23, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-428-11204-3 , pp. 578-580 ( digitized version ).
  • Hans Thirring : The way of theoretical physics from Newton to Schrödinger. Springer, Vienna 1962, an appreciation of the work of Erwin Schrödinger (35 pages).
  • Dieter Hoffmann : Erwin Schrödinger. Teubner, Leipzig 1984, 94 pages ( biographies of outstanding natural scientists, technicians and doctors; 66)
  • CW Kilmister (Ed.): Schrödinger- Centenary celebration of a polymath , Cambridge University Press 1987
  • Gerhard Oberkofler / Peter Goller : Erwin Schrödinger. Letters and documents from Zurich, Vienna and Innsbruck. Introduced and commented. Edited by the Central Physics Library in Vienna. Illustr. Innsbruck 1992.
  • Michael P. Murphy and Luk AJ O'Neil (both eds.): What is Life? The Next Fifty Years. Speculations on the future of biology. Cambridge University Press, 1995, ISBN 0-521-45509-X (hardback) and ISBN 0-521-59939-3 (paperback) - collection of articles.
  • Walter J. Moore: Erwin Schrödinger: A biography . Primus Verlag, 2012, ISBN 978-3-86312-301-7 . (Original English: Schrödinger. Life and Thought , Cambridge University Press 1989)
  • Norbert Straumann : Schrödingers discovery of wave mechanics , in Schrödingers Wave Mechanics 75 years after , University of Zurich 2001, arxiv : quant-ph / 0110097

Web links

Commons : Erwin Schrödinger  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ German biography: Schrödinger, Erwin - German biography. Retrieved October 15, 2019 .
  2. E. Schrödinger: Quantization as an eigenvalue problem I , Annalen der Physik 79 (1926), 361–376.
    E. Schrödinger: Quantization as an eigenvalue problem II , Annalen der Physik 79 (1926), 489-527.
    E. Schrödinger: About the relationship between Heisenberg-Born-Jordan quantum mechanics and mine , Annalen der Physik 79 (1926), 734-756.
    E. Schrödinger: Quantization as an eigenvalue problem III , Annalen der Physik 80 (1926), 437-490.
    E. Schrödinger: Quantization as an eigenvalue problem IV , Annalen der Physik 81 (1926), 109-139
  3. Erwin Schrödinger and Thomas Mann in Arosa: Stroke of genius and bitter farewell. In: August 13, 2017. Retrieved August 14, 2017 .
  4. ^ Walter Höflechner : History of the Karl-Franzens-University Graz. From the beginning until 2005. Leykam, Graz 2006, ISBN 3-7011-0058-6 . P. 187
  5. entry to Schrodinger, Erwin (1887 - 1961) in the archives of the Royal Society , London
  6. memorial Ruth Braunizer
  7. ^ Walter Moore: A life of Erwin Schrödinger . Cambridge University Press 1994
  8. The nuclear hunter . Echo, to Arthur March
  9. ^ W. Heisenberg: Erwin Schrödinger. Yearbook of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences 1961, 27–35.
  10. Erwin Schrödinger: Basic lines of a theory of colorimetry in daytime vision . In: Annalen der Physik, Volume IV, Volume 63, 1920, p. 397 ff. , P. 427 ff. , P. 481 ff.
  11. “He embodies the type of scholar who crosses the narrow boundaries of technical expertise and who has become rare in our century. Erwin Schrödinger saw himself as an eminently philosophical physicist. ”- Dieter Hoffmann (PDF; 298 kB) (Berlin): Erwin Schrödinger - Leipzig: Teubner, 1984. ( Biographies of outstanding natural scientists, technicians and physicians ; 66) - Foreword p. 5
  12. “But Schrödinger was more than just a physicist; Deep down he was a philosopher who, among other things and above all, occupied himself with the essence of inheritance, which he regarded as a transmission from the past into the future, immune to the storms of time, as an immune system against the storms of time Memory looked at “- Evelyn Fox Keller : Rethinking Life: Metaphors of Biology in the 20th Century . From the English by Inge Leipold. - Kunstmann, Munich 1998. p. 67.
  13. What is Life? , Dublin Botanical Gardens website
  14. ^ Freeman Dyson, Origins of Life, Cambridge University Press 2004, pp. 1f
  15. First presented in: The current situation in quantum mechanics . Natural Sciences (Organ of the Society of German Natural Scientists and Doctors - Berlin, Springer) - Vol. 23, 1935.
  16. List of members: Erwin Schrödinger in: Orden pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts, 1842-2002 , Bleicher Verlag, Gerlingen, 2002, ISBN 3-88350-175-1
  17. ^ History of the Erwin Schrödinger Prize ( Memento from November 27, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  18. ^ Viennese street names: Schrödingerplatz in the Vienna History Wiki of the City of Vienna ; Schrödingerplatz Vienna on Google Maps
  19. 13092 Schrodinger (1992 SS16) JPL Small-Body Database Browser
  20. Erwin Schrödinger Center (accessed March 7, 2012)