1. Youth
(1901-1920)

2. Student and Postdoctoral
Years (1920-1925)

3. The Development of Quantum
Mechanics (1925-1927)

4. Professor in Leipzig
(1927-1942)

5. The War Years
(1939-1945)

6. The period of Reconstruction
and Renewal (1946-1958)

7. The Munich Years
(1958-1976)

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Heisenberg-Gesellschaft

7. The Munich Years (1958-1976)

                When Heisenberg moved to Munich in 1958, he characteristically broadened the program of his institute, which ultimately led to the establishment of a series of new institutes. First, the former astrophysics department under Ludwig Biermann was raised to an Institute für Astrophysik wich, together with the Institute für Physik, formed Heisenberg’s Max-Planck-Institute für Physik und Astrophysik. The program of the Göttingen Institute was divided between the two institutes. The groups for experimental and theoretical elementary particle physics (and related fields) constituted, together with a group on experimental plasma physics (under Gerhard von Gierke), the physics institute. The astrophysics institute housed a department for electronic computers (Billing), one for theoretical astrophysics (Reimar Lüst) and one for theoretical plasma physics (Schlüter). With the addition of experimental plasma physics the institute compensated for the loss of Wirtz’ reactor group and kept an open option on contributing to fundamental research in nuclear fusion. Yet it soon overflowed the available laboratory space in Munich and in June 1960 began moving to Garching, to form the present MPI für Plasmaphysik (move completed in 1968). Heisenberg remained, however, in the scientific administration of the new institute. The MPI für extraterrestrische Physik under Reimar Lüst also emerged (in 1964) from Heisenberg’s institute and settled on the grounds of the Garching unit, but it remained an official sub-division of the mother institute.

                While Heisenberg played an active role in these extensions of his institute, he remined convinced thet the large experimental and theoretical tasks in elementary particle physics could only be solved by international efforts. He thus continued to aid and advise the European laboratory CERN near Geneva, which began operations in January 1959. Many members of his institute performed experimental work at CERN. During the later expansion of CERN Heisenberg actively supported the construction of  the storage rings, which he dedicated on 16 October 1971. He also provided essential suppot during the early planning stages for the electron synchrotron (DESY) near Hamburg, whose first high-energy accelerator went into operation with 6 GeV electron beam in February 1962.

                Among Heisenberg’s theoretical researches in Munich the development and evaluation of the nonlinear spinor theory occupied center place. In March 1959 he completed with his collaborators Hans-Peter Dürr, Heinrich Mitter, Siegfried Schlieder and Kazuo Yamazaki a long paper enunciating the principles of the theory together with several consequences; they obtained, in particular, its resonance states, one of which, the eta-meson was found more than a year later. Further investigations yielded an organizing of nucleons and hyperons with the help of spurion concept (December 1964) and calculation of the electromagnetic fine structure coupling constant (January 1965). Heisenberg wrote an introductory textbook on nonlinear spinor theory, which was published in 1966, and he retained his belief in it until the end of his life. He argued that experimental researches on the structure of matter during the past decades had yielded either the already known elementary particles, or new ones having the same qualities. Moreover, the assumption of successive layers of further, ever more lementary objects, such as quarks, would not allow the achievement of a main goal of a fundamental theory, i.e., to explain the dynamical behavior of matter; it would rather relegate the problem to the next deeper level. It appeared to Heisenberg that his nonlinear spinor theory agreed in spirit with Plato’s representation of the structure of matter by simple geometrical forms. He proposed to replace Plato’s form by a highly symmetrical field equation. All properties of matter should follow from this field equation and the imposed conditions, although the detailed computations involved nonlinear and often very complicated approximation procedures.

                In Heisenberg’s later work the foundations of physics, which guarantee the unity of the description of nature, tended to merge with the conceptions of Plato’s world view. He tirelessly presented his ideas about the intimate connection between physics and philosophy to wider audiences. He saw this connection verified in the historical development of quantum physics, describing parts of his own role in that development in his recollections Der Teil und das Ganze (1969, English: Physics and Beyond, 1971). But the connection was also reflected in Heisenberg’s standpoint on questions of art, and even on questions of religion and society.

                On 31 December 1970 Heisenberg resigned the directorship of the MPI für Physik und Astrophysik, the institute that he had directed for almost 30 years. Yet he still came regularly to his office and continued to work on scientific pspers and on more general articles, lectures and the second edition of his book on the nonlinear spinor theory. He participated at selected conferences, such as the symposium in honor of Dirac’s 70th birthday in Miramare near Trieste (18-25 September 1972) and the colloquium celebrating the 200th anniversity of Brussels Academy (16-17 May 1973). He traveld to the United States for the last time in April 1973. In the middle of 1973 he fell seriously ill. He slowly improved and a year later he appeared to have fully recovered. But in July 1975 he suffered a severe relapse. He died at his home in Munich on 1 February 1976.

                Heisenberg received numerous national and international awards in recognition of his work and his influence on science and society. He received, besides the Nobel Prize for physics, the Barnard Medal of Columbia University (New York, 1929), the Matteucci medal of the Accademia Nationale dei Linei (Rome, 1929) the Planck medal of the German Physical society (1933), the Copernicus prize of the University of Königsberg (1943), the Hugo Grotius medal (1956), the order Pour le merite für Wissenschaft und Künste (1957), the Kulturpreis of the City of Munich (1958), the Niels Bohr medal (Copenhagen, 1970) and the Guardini prize (Munich, 1973). In addition he received high national and international honors. He was a member of more than 30 scientific societies, including the Saxonian Academy (Leipzig, 1930), the Kaiserlich Leopoldinisch-Carolinische Akademie der Naturforscher (Halle, 1933), Norwegian Academy of Sciences (Oslo, 1936), Göttingen Academy off Sciences (1938), the Royal Swedish Academy (Upsala, 1938), the Societe Philomatique (Paris, 1938) , the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (Amsterdam, 1939), the Prussian Academy of Science (Berlin, 1943),the Accademia Nazional dei Lincei (Rome, 1947), the Bavarian Academy of Sciences )Munich, 1949) the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences (Copenhagen, 1951), the Pontificial Academy of Sciences (1955), the Royal Society of London (1955), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Boston, 1958) and the US National Academy of Sciences (Washington, 1961). At the very beginning of Heisenberg’s studies Sommerfeld remindet him of the words of Schiller: “Wenn Könige bauen, haben Kärrner zu tun.” (“When kings build, wagoners have to work.”) By this he meant that his pupil had first to work alongside the wagoners. Little did he suspect how quickly Heisenberg would begin to build and contribute, as did few others on our century, to the construction of modern theoretical physics.

                                                                                                David C. Cassidy and Helmut Rechenberg