Known as one of the men who played a very fundamental and instrumental role in the development of quantum mechanics, Max Born was friends with one of the brightest minds of the 20th century, Albert Einstein. He was a brilliant man who, through his research and inventions as a physicist, helped shape the world as we know it today. We take a closer look at his family, his inventions, and his legacy as a respected scientist.
Who was Max Born?
Max was born on December 11, 1882, in Wroclaw, Poland, today Wroclaw (Breslau). At the time of his birth, Breslau was part of the Prussian province of Silesia, which was part of the German Reich. He came from a family of intellectually gifted people; his father was an anatomist and embryologist born in Gustav and a professor of embryology at the University of Breslau.
His mother came from a line of Silesian industrialists; her name was Margarethe Gretchen née Kauffmann. The Borns were a Jewish family. They had a sister, Kathe, who was born in 1886, two years before her mother died. Max was four years old at the time of her death. Later he had another sibling, Wolfgang, a half-brother from his father’s second marriage to Bertha Lipstein.
Education and Inventions
Max attended the König-Wilhelm-Gymnasium in Breslau. Due to the German education system, which allowed free movement between universities, Born was able to commute between the universities in Zurich, Heidelberg, Wroclaw, and Göttingen. His dissertation on the stability of elastic wires and bands was written in 1906 at the University of Göttingen under the supervision of the mathematician Felix Klein.
Max Born received his doctorate in 1907 for his work the following year. After completing his studies Born was drafted into the military to do his military service. He was drafted into the German army to serve with the 2nd Guard Dragoon “Empress of Alexandra of Russia” stationed in Berlin. His time in the military was short-lived, he was discharged on medical grounds after an asthma attack.
Higher analysis, astronomy, physics, and matrix calculus were the fields of science that met the intellectually fertile spirit of Born. He traveled to England to study physics at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge. There he met people like J.J. Thompson, Joseph Larmor, and George Searle. Einstein’s article, On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, on the special theory of relativity, aroused interest in Born. He teamed up with Minkowski, returned to Göttingen, and there they began research on special relativity.
They made good progress before Minkowski suddenly died of appendicitis on 12 January 1909. Born was later able to publish his work and published a paper on the theory of rigid bodies in the kinematics of the principle of relativity. It was this work that gave rise to the concept of Born’s rigid bodies.
Although he lived in an era of constant change and conflict on a global scale, Born was able to do good work that helped shape the world as we know it. Together with Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrodinger, and Max Planck, Born is considered one of the founders of quantum mechanics or physics.
The exploration of matter at the smallest levels, from the atomic to the subatomic level, is characterized by Born’s work. These founding advances have led to the invention of modern objects such as lasers, modern electronics, personal computers, and MRI. If we were to record all this under “inventions of Born & Co”, we would be right to a certain extent.
Max Born was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics thirty-four times. He finally received it in 1954 together with the physicist Walther Bothe for his statistical interpretation of the quantum mechanical wave function. Among his many achievements was the first mathematically precise statement of the First Law of Thermodynamics.
Born in 1912, his wife Hedwig met Martha Ehrenberg and the couple married a year later, and the union was blessed with three children, two girls, and a boy. His girls were called Irene and Gritli, his son was called Gustav. The relationship between Born and Hedwig was difficult, and the couple usually spent time apart. The grandchildren of Max Born are well recognizable today. The singer Oliva Newton-John is the daughter of Irene. The actor Max Born is also his grandson.
Also, his great-grandchildren are not doing badly, the singer and actress Chloe Rose Lattanzi is his great-granddaughter, as well as the singer-songwriter Brett Goldsmith and the racing car driver Emerson Newton-John.