Who Was Werner Heisenberg ?

As a result of the recently increased public debate about the person and character of my father, stimulated by Michael Frayn's Tony Award winning Broadway play "Copenhagen", I decided to present some pertinent material that highlights his integrity and humanity. It may help anyone who is interested arrive at a better understanding of my father's thinking and actions, just as his own account in "Physics and Beyond" (Harper & Row 1971) [German title: "Der Teil und das Ganze"] and my mother's "Inner Exile - Recollections of a Life with Werner Heisenberg" (Birkhäuser 1984) have attempted. In making this other material available to an English speaking public, I am hoping to reach the curious and the skeptical reader alike. This web-site will be continuously expanded after its launch in December 2000.

Last update Sept. 22, 2016

Translations for this web-site by Irene Heisenberg unless noted differently.

Biographical data

Documents by Werner Heisenberg 

View from the Urfeld terrace over lake Walchen (Walchensee)

Werner Heisenberg in front of the Urfeld house

1) 1941: Werner Heisenberg: Reality and its Order
German Title: Ordnung der Wirklichkeit
In: Werner Heisenberg, Gesammelte Werke, Abteilung C, Piper Verlag, München ISBN 3-492-02925-6

2) 1946: Werner Heisenberg: Science as a Means of International Understanding
In: Philosophical Problens of Quantum Physics, Ox Bow Press, Woodbridge, Connecticut 1979, ISBN 0-918024-15-3

3) 1967: Werner Heisenberg: Interview in the Magazine "Der Spiegel"
See also: Werner Heisenberg, Gesammelte Werke, Band V, Piper; also: Werner Heisenberg, Deutsche und Jüdische Physik, Helmut Rechenberg Hrsg., Piper

Anna Maria Hirsch
4.) 2003: Letters of Werner Heisenberg to his parents:
German title: "Liebe Eltern! - Briefe aus kritischer Zeit 1918 bis 1945" Anna Maria Hirsch-Heisenberg editor; Langen Müller; ISBN 3-7844-2900-9

[Sample letters:<German>,<translation>]
Letter from India:<translation>

Postscript: "Memories of My Father"

Irene Heisenberg

5.) 2016: Correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and his wife Elisabeth published Fall 2016 by Yale University Press under the title My Dear Li; translated from the German by Irene Heisenberg.
See book-link:
"This compelling selection of more than 300 letters exchanged between Nobel prize-winning physicist Werner Heisenberg and his wife Elisabeth during World War II sheds light on their devoted relationship and on his much-debated wartime work as Germany’s director of atomic research. The volume also includes a moving excerpt from Werner’s personal diary."
Now available (e.g.Amazon); ISBN 978-0-300-19693-1
German title: "Meine liebe Li - Der Briefwechsel 1937-1946" Anna Maria Hirsch-Heisenberg editor - Residenz Verlag 2011;
ISBN 978 3 7017 3247 0
Excerpts (a): Diary from end of war
Excerpts (b): Letter from Copenhagen 1941
Addendum: WH letters not included or truncated in this book

6) Individual letters:
Last letter from Werner Heisenberg to Niels Bohr before 1941 visit:
Two letters from Werner Heisenberg to Robert Jungk, author of "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns"
(a) Transcription (b)Translation into English

Werner Heisenberg sweeping the floor at his Urfeld summer house.ca. 1960

Personal comments by Heisenberg's Children 

Elisabeth Heisenberg (1914-1998) and Wolfgang (1938-1994)
at the Leipzig Symposium held in honor
of Werner Heisenberg's (1901-1976) 90th birthday.
7) Wolfgang Heisenberg: Memories of My Father (1991)

German Title: Erinnerungen an meinen Vater

In: Geyer, Bodo u.a . (Hrsg.), Werner Heisenberg, Physiker und Philosoph, Spektrum Akademischer Verlag Heidelberg – Berlin – Oxford, 1993, ISBN 3 – 86025 – 033 - 7

8) 2002: Jochen Heisenberg: Frayn's 'Heisenberg': Fact or Fiction?

Talk presented at the March 2nd, 2002 Symposium of the Smithsonian Institution ,Washington DC, organized by Brian Schwartz.

9) 2002: Jochen Heisenberg: Remarks about my father

Remarks presented at the May 13th, 2002 Symposium at MIT, sponsored by the MIT Office of the Arts and the Goethe Institute Boston.

10) 2002: Martin Heisenberg: Op.Ed. Article in "Die Zeit"

11) 2002: Barbara Blum: Essay Heisenberg and Music
Hausmusik: The Heisenberg's trio plays Beethoven Trio Op. 1 No 2
Piano: Werner Heisenberg, Violin: Wolfgang Heisenberg, Cello: Jochen Heisenberg
recorded around 1960 movement 2 ; movement 4

Other items possibly of interest 


13)Werner Heisenberg's Family-tree:

14)Werner Heisenberg's University Records

15) Werner Heisenberg's sketch-book view as pdf

16) Werner Heisenberg was buried in Munich's cemetery "Waldfriedhof" in the family plot. See picture

On Dec. 7th, 2012 the "Heisenberg-Gesellschaft" (Heisenberg-Society) constituted itself.
Check their home-page

Link to BBC web-site for an audio interview(1965) with Werner Heisenberg and C.F. von Weizsäcker relating to Copenhagen visit

Link to Niels Bohr Archive's Bohr letters.

Jochen Heisenberg. home-page

UNDER CONSTRUCTION -- additional material to be added later.

If you have any questions or comments, we appreciate mail to iheisenberg@comcast.net or jhh@pauli.unh.edu