A History of the Early Application of Quantum Mechanics (ca. 1926–1935)
A history of the early application of quantum mechanics (ca. 1926–1935)
What separates a contribution to “fundamental” physics from a mere application?
Based on prior research on the genesis of quantum mechanics, the project studies the history of early applications of this theory in areas other than atomic physics. Important notions and techniques of modern quantum mechanics (e.g., exchange, tunneling) turn out to have been developed only in the context of early attempts to broaden the range of application of quantum mechanics to the study of atomic nuclei, molecules, or solids. These attempts traditionally have been viewed—by both historians and physicists—as being mere processes of appropriation of the readily available methods of quantum mechanics, and as essentially adding nothing new to a physical theory that had quickly reached a mature status in 1925–1927. Rather than being “applications” in a subordinate sense, relevant—if at all—to historians studying the history of the subdisciplines of physics in question, the development of quantum mechanics can only fully be grasped by studying the role of these early applications in a variety of fields of inquiry.