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Martin J. Klein
Martin J. Klein was the earliest historian of science to recognize the importance of Albert Einstein's contributions to quantum mechanics and how they had been neglected in the years since the development of the "new quantum theory" by Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, Erwin Schrödinger, and others in the late 1920's.
In his first contribution, Klein compared Einstein's quantum physics with his work on relativity,
Einstein's work on relativity has generated millions of words of comment and exposition on all levels of discourse. Comparatively little has been written about his probings, over a period of a quarter of a century, into the theory of radiation and its significance for our understanding of the physical world. And yet the boldness and clarity of Einstein's insight show forth as characteristically in these studies as in his more famous investigations into the nature of space and time. Klein does not yet emphasize that Einstein's work on quantum physics is being ignored or dismissed by the leading physicists of the time, but he does point out how unusual Einstein's insight was into the dualism between continuous field theories and discrete particle theories.
This dualism between particle and field was probably noticed by others besides Einstein, but there is no record that anyone else suggested removing it in the drastic way that Einstein then proposed. (I am not even aware that anyone else was disturbed by the dualism at that time, and yet it was already a major theme in Einstein's own work.) Klein turns next to Einstein's 1906 work on specific heats, which was accepted by several physicists as proving the importance of the quantum theory, though not for his "very revolutionary" ideas about the "light quantum." It is cited as solving the problem of anomalous specific heats.
Just as Einstein's "light quantum hypothesis" was mostly ignored until the mid-1920's, even as the 1905 paper is always cited for its explanation of the "photoelectric effect," Klein tells us that Einstein was using specific heat as an application of a much deeper insight into quantum theory. Einstein saw energy levels or "states," with transitions between them that he called "jumps," absorbing or emitting a quantum of energy Klein begins by quoting Einstein
we must now assume that, for ions which can vibrate at a definite frequency and which make possible the exchange of energy between radiation and matter, the manifold of possible states must be narrower than it is for the bodies in our direct experience. We must in fact assume that the mechanism of energy transfer is such that the energy can assume only the values 0, hv, 2hv, ....nhv
Einstein saw that these possible "states" occupy a narrow energy range. Most of the energy levels in the classical continuum would not be accessible. Energy can not be absorbed unless the amount Einstein discovered that not all radiative transitions in matter are possible, that the possible transitions have a narrow band of energies because the available states or levels are narrow.
Some "degrees of freedom" in matter are said to be "frozen out" below some temperature. The vibrational oscillations of molecules and vibrations of ions in solid matter require a minimum of energy below which they cannot absorb heat. Once the temperature rises so that average energy Klein says Einstein's paper is inadequately described by those who refer to it as the quantum theory of solids. Einstein is concerned with apparent violations of the principle of the equipartition of energy, a foundation of classical physics.
It would be more to the point to say that the paper was written to show that there was, or would have to be, a quantum theory, and that the range of phenomena which could be clarified by such a theory included the properties of matter as well as those of radiation. Einstein was showing in a new way how deeply the foundations of classical physics had been undermined. Klein quotes Marcel Brillouin as saying at the first Solvay Conference (in 1911)
"It seems certain that from now on we will have to introduce into our physical and chemical ideas a discontinuity, something that changes in jumps, of which we had no notion at all a few years ago" Thus the "quantum jumps" caused by discontinuous radiative transitions between discrete energy levels in matter that we associate with the "Bohr Atom" were well known at least a year before Bohr encountered the Balmer series formula for spectral lines in hydrogen. Bohr is known to have studied the 1911 Solvay conference closely. In his third article on Einstein in the 1960's, Klein showed that Einstein had explained wave-particle duality nearly two decades before Erwin Schrödinger's wave mechanics and Werner Heisenberg's matrix mechanics battled for the best explanation of quantum theory. Klein lamented the great oversimplification of the history of quantum theory that came from focusing on the 1913 work of Niels Bohr.
The most common form that the oversimplification takes is an almost exclusive concentration on the problems of atomic structure and atomic spectra from Bohr’s work in 1913 to the new quantum mechanics of 1925-26...In his last major work on Einstein, part of the Harvard Einstein: A Centenary Volume, in 1979, Klein tried to emphasize Einstein's great contributions to quantum theory, even if he remained a critic.
When the new quantum physics was developed, Einstein greeted it sceptically even though he had done as much as anyone to bring it into being. He recognized its great successes, but he never accepted it as the new fundamental theory it claimed to be. After a comprehensive summary of Einstein's work on quantum theory, Klein portrayed Einstein as out of step with almost everyone in the new field of quantum mechanics.
[He] never accepted the finality of the quantum mechanical renunciation of causality, or its claim to be the new fundamental theory. From the Solvay Conference of 1927, where the quantum mechanical synthesis had its first major discussion, to the end of his life, Einstein never stopped raising questions about this new approach to physics. At first he tried to propose conceptual experiments that would prove the logical inconsistency of quantum mechanics, but these attempts were all turned aside successfully by Bohr and his collaborators. In 1935 Einstein began to emphasize another basic limitation in quantum mechanics, as he saw it. He argued that its description of physical reality was essentially incomplete, that there were elements of physical reality that had no counterparts in the theory. Bohr’s response to this was to reject Einstein’s criterion of physical reality as ambiguous, and to claim that only through his own principle of complementarity could one arrive at an experimentally meaningful criterion of completeness. .
References
Einstein’s first paper on quanta. The Natural Philosopher, 2(1963), 59-86.
Einstein and the wave-particle duality.
Einstein, specific heats, and the early quantum theory.
The First Phase of the Bohr-Einstein Dialogue, in
Einstein and the development of quantum physics, in |