Solvay conference a paradigm shift. Old photo brought to real life by <a href="http://sannadullaway.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Sanna Dullaway</a>
Solvay Conference on quantum mechanics at the Institute International de Physique Solvay, Brussels, Belgium, in 1927. Wikipedia
Front row: Irving Langmuir, Max Planck, Marie Curie, Hendrik Lorentz, Albert Einstein, Paul Langevin, Charles-Eugène Guye, C.T.R Wilson, Owen Richardson. Middle row: Peter Debye, Martin Knudsen, William Lawrence Bragg, Hendrik Anthony Kramers, Paul Dirac, Arthur Compton, Louis de Broglie, Max Born, Niels Bohr. Back row: Auguste Piccard, Émile Henriot, Paul Ehrenfest, Édouard Herzen, Théophile de Donder, Erwin Schrödinger, JE Verschaffelt, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, Ralph Fowler, Léon Brillouin. Curie, the only woman in attendance, was also the only one among them to win a Nobel Prize in two separate disciplines: chemistry and physics.
Front row: Irving Langmuir, Max Planck, Marie Curie, Hendrik Lorentz, Albert Einstein, Paul Langevin, Charles-Eugène Guye, C.T.R Wilson, Owen Richardson. Middle row: Peter Debye, Martin Knudsen, William Lawrence Bragg, Hendrik Anthony Kramers, Paul Dirac, Arthur Compton, Louis de Broglie, Max Born, Niels Bohr.Back row: Auguste Piccard, Émile Henriot, Paul Ehrenfest, Édouard Herzen, Théophile de Donder, Erwin Schrödinger, JE Verschaffelt, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, Ralph Fowler, Léon Brillouin.Curie, the only woman in attendance, was also the only one among them to win a Nobel Prize in two separate disciplines: chemistry and physics.
Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein on December 11, 1925. Paul Ehrenfest/Wikipedia
Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein on December 11, 1925. Paul Ehrenfest/Wikipedia

“Einstein, stop telling God what to do,” physicist Niels Bohr once told Albert Einstein, who in a room full of the world’s most notable scientific minds argued “God does not play dice.”

In 1927, Einstein and Bohr were two of the 29 scientists (more than half of whom were or would later become Nobel Prize recipients) in attendance at the Fifth Solvay Institut International de Physique in Brussels to discuss the foundations of the newly formed quantum theory.

Front row: Irving Langmuir, Max Planck, Marie CurieHendrik LorentzAlbert Einstein, Paul Langevin, Charles-Eugène Guye, C.T.R WilsonOwen Richardson.

Middle row: Peter Debye, Martin Knudsen, William Lawrence Bragg, Hendrik Anthony Kramers, Paul Dirac, Arthur Compton, Louis de Broglie, Max BornNiels Bohr.

Back row: Auguste Piccard, Émile Henriot, Paul Ehrenfest, Édouard Herzen, Théophile de Donder, Erwin Schrödinger, JE Verschaffelt, Wolfgang PauliWerner Heisenberg, Ralph Fowler, Léon Brillouin.

Curie, the only woman in attendance, was also the only one among them to win a Nobel Prize in two separate disciplines: chemistry and physics.

The Solvay Conferences (FrenchConseils Solvay) have been devoted to outstanding preeminent open problems in both physics and chemistry. They began with the historic invitation-only 1911 Solvay Conference on Physics, considered a turning point in the world of physics, and continue to the present day.

Following the initial success of 1911, they have since been organised by the International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry, founded by the Belgian industrialist Ernest Solvay in 1912 and 1913, and located in Brussels. The institutes coordinate conferences, workshops, seminars, and colloquia. Recent Solvay Conferences usually go through a three year cycle: the Solvay Conference on Physics, followed by a gap year, followed by the Solvay Conference on Chemistry.

Notable Solvay conferences

First conference

Hendrik Lorentz was chairman of the first Solvay Conference on Physics, held in Brussels from 30 October to 3 November 1911. The subject was Radiation and the Quanta. This conference looked at the problems of having two approaches, namely classical physics and quantum theoryAlbert Einstein was the second youngest physicist present (the youngest one was Lindemann). Other members of the Solvay Congress were experts including Marie Curie and Henri Poincaré (see image for attendee list).

Third conference

The third Solvay Conference on Physics was held in April 1921, soon after World War I. Most German scientists were barred from attending. In protest at this action, Albert Einstein, himself a citizen and a vocal supporter of the infant Weimar Republic, declined his invitation to attend the conference. However, the real reason of Einstein’s absence is because he accepted the invitation by Dr. Chaim Weizmann for a trip to the United States.

Fifth conference

Perhaps the most famous conference was the fifth Solvay Conference on Physics; held from 24 to 29 October 1927, the subject was Electrons and Photons, and the world’s most notable physicists met to discuss the newly formulated quantum theory. The leading figures were Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. 17 of the 29 attendees were or became Nobel Prize winners, including Marie Curie who, alone among them, had won Nobel Prizes in two separate scientific disciplines.[4] Attendees Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner HeisenbergPaul Dirac, and Erwin Schrödinger would be listed among the top ten greatest physicists of all-time, in a 1999 poll of leading physicists for Physics World magazine.

 

Solvay conferences on physics

NoYearTitleTranslationChair
11911La théorie du rayonnement et les quantaThe theory of radiation and quantaHendrik Lorentz (Leiden)
21913La structure de la matièreThe structure of matter
31921Atomes et électronsAtoms and electrons
41924Conductibilité électrique des métaux et problèmes connexesElectric conductivity of metals and related problems
51927Electrons et photonsElectrons and photons
61930Le magnétismeMagnetismPaul Langevin (Paris)
71933Structure et propriétés des noyaux atomiquesStructure & properties of the atomic nucleus
81948Les particules élémentairesElementary particlesLawrence Bragg (Cambridge)
91951L’état solideThe solid state
101954Les électrons dans les métauxElectrons in metals
111958La structure et l’évolution de l’universThe structure and evolution of the universe
121961La théorie quantique des champsQuantum field theory
131964The Structure and Evolution of GalaxiesJ. Robert Oppenheimer (Princeton)
141967Fundamental Problems in Elementary Particle PhysicsChristian Møller (Copenhagen)
151970Symmetry Properties of NucleiEdoardo Amaldi (Rome)
161973Astrophysics and Gravitation
171978Order and Fluctuations in Equilibrium and Nonequilibrium Statistical MechanicsLéon Van Hove (CERN)
181982Higher Energy Physics
191987Surface ScienceF. W. de Wette (Austin)
201991Quantum OpticsPaul Mandel (Brussels)
211998Dynamical Systems and IrreversibilityIoannis Antoniou  (Brussels)
222001The Physics of Communication
232005The Quantum Structure of Space and TimeDavid Gross (Santa Barbara)
242008Quantum Theory of Condensed MatterBertrand Halperin (Harvard)
252011The theory of the quantum worldDavid Gross
262014Astrophysics and CosmologyRoger Blandford (Stanford)
272017The physics of living matter: Space, time and information in biologyBoris Shraiman (Santa Barbara)

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