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Wolfgang Pauli

Wolfgang PauliAKA Wolfgang Ernst Friedrich Pauli

Born: 25-Apr-1900
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: 15-Dec-1958
Location of death: Zürich, Switzerland
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Zollikon Cemetery, Zürich, Switzerland

Gender: Male
Religion: Agnostic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: Switzerland
Executive summary: Pauli Exclusion Principle

Wolfgang Pauli wrote his first published academic paper when he was 18, and came to scientific fame at the age of 20, while still a student at University of Munich, when he wrote a lengthy article for the Encyclopedia of Mathematical Sciences explaining the theory of relativity with unprecedented clarity. After reading Pauli's article, Albert Einstein wrote, "One wonders what to admire most, the psychological understanding for the development of ideas, the sureness of mathematical deduction, the profound physical insight, the capacity for lucid, systematical presentation, the knowledge of the literature, the complete treatment of the subject matter, or the sureness of critical appraisal." He was a high school classmate and friend of Richard Kuhn, then studied under Arnold Sommerfeld, and later worked as an assistant to both Max Born and Niels Bohr.

In 1925 Pauli made his most famous discovery, the Pauli exclusion principle, addressing the anomalous Zeeman effect by surmising that two electrons in an atom can never share the same quantum state or configuration at the same time. In a 1926 paper he introduced his fourth quantum number, or a fourth degree of freedom, to explain characteristics of the hydrogen atom that had puzzled other physicists. His 1928 attempts to integrate the quantum principle with the interaction of radiation and matter set the stage for the development of quantum field theory. In 1930 he proposed the existence of neutral particles of low mass but with spin, the neutrino. Einstein nominated Pauli for the highest honor in science, the Nobel Prize, which he received in 1945.

He was Jewish by heredity, but was not told of this until his mid-teens. His father converted to Catholicism before marrying Pauli's mother, and he was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. His parents quit the church in 1911 and Pauli himself withdrew from Catholicism in 1929, though none of the Paulis publicly explained their reasons. His personal life was troubled — he drank heavily, his first marriage lasted less than a year before ending in divorce, and his mother killed herself in 1927. He sought help from psychologist Carl Jung, who instead arranged for Pauli to see one of Jung's assistants. Jung and Pauli, however, engaged in written correspondence, and Jung published a collection of Pauli's dreams in 1935. He sometimes told friends he wished he had been a comedian instead of a physicist. His middle name, Ernst, was a tribute to family friend and Pauli's godfather Ernst Mach. His sister, Hertha Pauli, was a journalist and actress of some renown.

Father: Wolfgang Joseph Pauli (physician, b. 11-Sep-1869)
Mother: Berta Camilla Schütz (b. 29-Nov-1878, m. 2-May-1899, d. 15-Nov-1927 suicide)
Sister: Hertha Ernestina Pauli (journalist, b. 4-Sep-1906, d. 9-Feb-1973)
Wife: Käthe Margarethe Deppner (dancer, m. 23-Dec-1929, div. 29-Nov-1930)
Wife: Franca Bertram (m. 4-Apr-1934)

    High School: Döblinger Gymnasium, Vienna, Austria (1918)
    University: PhD, University of Munich (1921)
    Scholar: University of Göttingen (assistant to )
    Scholar: University of Copenhagen (assistant to )
    Lecturer: University of Hamburg (1923-28)
    Professor: Theoretical Physics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich (1928-40)
    Professor: Visiting Professor, University of Michigan (1931)
    Professor: Visiting Professor, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ (1935)
    Professor: Theoretical Physics, Princeton University (1940-45)
    Professor: Visiting Professor, University of Michigan (1941)
    Professor: Visiting Professor, Purdue University (1942)
    Professor: Theoretical Physics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich (1945-58)

    Lorentz Medal 1931
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1945
    Matteucci Medal 1956
    Max Planck Medal 1958
    American Physical Society
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    Institute for Advanced Study Visiting Professor, 1935
    Royal Society Foreign Member, 1953
    Swiss Physical Society
    Austrian Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry
    Lunar Crater Pauli (44.5° S, 137.5° E, 84 km. diameter)
    Risk Factors: Alcoholism, Depression, Smoking

Author of books:
Die Allgemeinen Prinzipien der Wellenmechanik (General Principles of Quantum Mechanics) (1946, non-fiction)
Writings on Physics and Philosophy (1994, collected papers; posthumous)


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