|< Return to 100 Scientists Who Shaped World History|
< Return to Famous Jews
< Return to Famous Lutherans
The Religious Affiliation of Theoretical Physicist
Max Born was a Jewish-born convert to Lutheranism. Although baptized as a Lutheran, his conversion appears to have been only nominal.
From: David C. Cassidy, "Born into Trouble", in American Scientist, July-August 2005; a book review of The End of the Certain World: The Life and Science of Max Born: The Nobel Physicist Who Ignited the Quantum Revolution, by Nancy Thorndike Greenspan, Basic Books, 2005 (http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/44480;jsessionid=aaae7gR6Os82CK; viewed 26 September 2005):
The distinguished German and British theoretical physicist Max Born (1882-1970) was in the forefront of the two great revolutions in 20th-century physics -- relativity theory and quantum mechanics. He was among the small number of mainly European theorists who created quantum mechanics during the 1920s. He contributed to the statistical, probabilistic, uncertain interpretation of quantum experiments known as the Copenhagen Interpretation. As the head of the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Gottingen in Germany, Born helped to train a generation of the world's leading physicists, among them Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, Pascual Jordan, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller.
Yet Born was among the last of those who led the quantum revolution to receive a Nobel Prize for his work...
Max Born was the son of a wealthy, highly cultured family of Jewish descent in the then-German city of Breslau. His mother died when Max was four, and his father, a physician and medical researcher, died when he was 17...
But as quantum mechanics went on to success, Born grew ever more depressed, as was his inclination. He had good reasons: His family had lost its wealth to war and inflation, anti-Semitism was on the rise, and he was a target -- even though, at Hedi's insistence, he had been baptized a Lutheran. And Hedi, as her diaries make clear, was carrying on a long-term affair, of which Born was aware, with a Gottingen mathematician, Gustav Herglotz. Matters grew worse on Hitler's rise to power. Born, now in his fifties, was eventually forced to resign his position. Gottingen revoked his doctorate, and the Reich revoked his citizenship.
Webpage created 26 September 2005. Last modified 26 September 2005.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org.