Archive for History of Exact Sciences

, Volume 68, Issue 5, pp 599–639

Correspondence principle versus Planck-type theory of the atom


DOI: 10.1007/s00407-014-0137-5

Cite this article as:
Petruccioli, S. Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. (2014) 68: 599. doi:10.1007/s00407-014-0137-5


This article examines the problem of the origins of the correspondence principle formulated by Bohr in 1920 and intends to test the correctness of the argument that the essential elements of that principle were already present in the 1913 “trilogy”. In contrast to this point of view, moreover widely shared in the literature, this article argues that it is possible to find a connection between the formulation of the correspondence principle and the assessment that led Bohr to abandon the search for a Planck-type theory. In fact, a thorough examination of Bohr’s works shows that the birth of this principle coincided with the depletion of a research program whose origins may date back to Bohr’s stay at the Rutherford’s laboratory (summer 1912). Finally, this article argues that original program of research was abandoned when it became clear that Planck’s quantum hypothesis for the harmonic oscillator was not an adequate support for the theoretical architecture of atomic physics; namely, there was evidence enough to justify a most drastic conclusion, according to Bohr: “I do not think that a theory of the Planck type can be made logical consistent”.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università dell’AquilaL’AquilaItaly

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