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Erwin. Schr ö dinger. (1887 – 1961) . “The task is not so much to see what no-one has yet seen, but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.” .

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schr dinger



(1887 – 1961)

“The task is not so much to see what no-one has yet seen, but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.”

early life
Erwin Rudolf Josef AlexanderSchrödinger was born in 1887 in Erdberg, Vienna to Rudolf Schrödinger, a linoleum factory owner & botanist, and Georgine Emilia Brenda, daughter of Alexander Bauer (a Professor of Chemistry).Early life
early life1
Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger was born in 1887 in Erdberg, Vienna to Rudolf Schrödinger, a linoleum factory owner & botanist, and Georgine Emilia Brenda, daughter of Alexander Bauer (a Professor of Chemistry).

The young Schrödinger received private lessons from a tutor at home until the age of ten.

He then attended Akademisches Gymnasium until his graduation in 1906.

From 1906 to 1910 he was a student at the University of Vienna, during which time he came under the strong influence of Fritz Hasenöhrl, who was Boltzmann's successor.

On 20 May 1910, Schrödinger was awarded his doctorate for the dissertation On the conduction of electricity on the surface of insulators in moist air. He then became assistant to Franz Exner- an important pioneer of modern physics in Austria at the time.

Early life
academic life
Academic Life
  • In 1914, Schrodinger participated in the war effort as part of the Austrian Fortress Artillery. In 1920, he took up an academic position as assistant to Max Wien, followed by positions at Stuttgart (extraordinary professor), Breslau (ordinary professor), and at the University of Zurich (replacing von Laue) where he settled for six years. Schrödinger, in his autobiography “Meine Leben, Meine Weltansicht,” described Wien as “moderately anti-semetic.”
  • His papers at this time dealt with specific heats of solids, with problems of thermodynamics (he was greatly interested in Boltzmann's probability theory) and of atomic spectra; in addition, he indulged in physiological studies of colour (as a result of his contacts with Kohlrausch and Exner, and of Helmholtz's lectures).
  • It was during his stay at the University of Vienna that he became interested in eigenvalue problems and especially in their application to the new ‘quantum theory’.
academic life1
Academic life
  • His great discovery, Schrödinger's wave equation, was made in the first half of 1926. It came as a result of his dissatisfaction with the quantum condition in Bohr's orbit theory and his belief that atomic spectra should really be determined by some kind of eigenvalue problem.
  • He became convinced that the energies of a confined particle could be determined as eigenvalue solutions to a particular eigenfunction, a probabilistic wave function.
  • He published his work in Annalen der Physik (the same publication that Einstein used to publish his theories of relativity) under the very imaginative title, ‘Quantisation as an eigenvalue problem’.
  • For this work he shared the Nobel Prize in 1933 with Paul Dirac for “the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory”.
academic life2
Academic life
  • His great discovery, Schrödinger's wave equation, is below. H-bar is Planck’s constant, m is the mass of the particle, Psi is the wave function, V(x) is the potential energy and E is the particle’s energy. This formulation of quantum mechanics has the form of an eigenvalue problem.
  • The solution of the Schrodinger Equation (the eigenvalues) gives the allowed energy levels (or orbitals surrounding a nucleus).
schrodinger s cat
Schrodinger’s cat
  • After consultation with Einstein, Schrodinger proposed a thought experiment in which he highlighted the apparent inconsistencies between the so-called Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics and the reality of macroscopic measurements.
  • He proposed that a cat be placed in a sealed box. The release of a poison is then subject to the probabilistic decay of a radioactive isotope. If the isotope decays, the poison is released. If no decay occurs, the poison is not released.
  • The result is that the cat is in a superposition of states between being dead, and being alive. This is very unintuitive.
his dublin life
His Dublin life
  • In 1940, Schrodinger was asked by Eamonn deValera (who had been a Mathematics teacher at Blackrock College) to help establish the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, on Merrion Square.
  • He became Director of the School of Theoretical Physics and remained in Ireland for 17 years until his retirement in 1955. During this time he became a naturalised Irish citizen.
  • During his time at the Institute he wrote about fifty further publications on various topics including his attempt at formulating a unified field theory.
  • After retiring at the ripe old age of 68, he returned to Vienna
what is life
What is life?
  • In 1944, Schrodinger wrote a book that was to change the course of scientific endeavour in the biological sciences.
  • He published his book, What is life?, with a view to explaining the characteristics of life and speculating on the mechanism for the storage of biological information.
  • Both James Watson and Francis Crick, who discovered the structure of DNA in 1953, later cited Schrodinger’s book as their inspiration in searching for the information transfer mechanism.
  • Schrodinger also delivered a series of lectures with the same title in what is now the Schrodinger Lecture Theatre in Trinity College a year before the book was published.
  • It was from this platform that he introduced the idea of negative entropy or negentropy, which means that life may be associated with a local decrease in entropy (organisation of the organism) which is offset by borrowing entropy from the surroundings (food).
schrodinger s


Other equation



personal life
Personal life
  • Despite being one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century, Schrodinger had a more unusual approach to his personal life.
  • Schrodinger had married Annemarie Bertel in 1920.
  • It has been widely reported (mostly by Cormac McGuinness) that Schrodinger had a eureka moment when he was holidaying in the Alps with one of his mistresses in which he saw his famous Schrodinger Equation flash before his eyes.
  • Schrodinger requested that Arthur March become his assistant while he was working in Oxford because Schrodinger was in love with March’s wife, Hilde.
  • Schrodinger was offered a teaching position at Princeton but after extensive negotiations he declined the position. It is thought that Princeton would not house him with his wife and his mistress. Instead, he went to DUBLIN, to the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, who obligingly provided said housing arrangement.
  • While in Ireland, Schrodinger also fathered two children, by two different women.


schrodinger s legacy
Schrodinger’s legacy
  • Schrodinger died on January 4th, 1961, of tuberculosis at the age of 73, in his native Austria.
  • He was survived by his widow, Anny (his original wife), his various misstresses and numerous children.
  • The huge Schrodinger Crater, on the far side of the moon, was named after him by the IAU (International Astronomical Union).
  • The Erwin Schrodinger International Institute for Mathematical Physics was established in Vienna in 1993.

That’s a psi, by the way!



By Catherine McGinty and Simon Hall