Monday, 20 October 2008
Quantum Lives 6: Erwin Schrodinger
Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961) spent the Second World War at a safe haven provided by the Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera. A keen amateur mathematician, de Valera brought forward the establishment of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Dublin and appointed Schrödinger to a professorship. The seventeen years he spent in the Irish capital proved to be among the happiest years of his life as he devoted himself increasingly to philosophical questions surrounding the foundations of physics and the relationship between the physical and biological sciences. It was during this period that Schrödinger wrote one of the most famous and influential books of twentieth century science, What is Life? His belief that the essential nature of living organisms could be studied and understood in terms of physical principles convinced some of the brightest young minds to swap physics for the new field of molecular biology. Schrödinger led an unconventional personal life that included sharing a home with his wife and mistress. In March 1956, aged 69, Schrödinger returned to Vienna as professor of theoretical physics. Walter Moore (1989) Schrödinger: Life and Thought is a fascinating tale of a complex man: a scientist, a serial womanizer, and an enthusiastic explorer of Eastern mysticism.