Erwin Schrödinger’s Poetry

Abstract

Many of the major figures in the history of science have produced literary works, but the relationship between their poetic texts and their scientific work is often underestimated. This paper illuminates the poetry of Erwin Schrödinger—one of the premier figures in twentieth-century science, and an accomplished poet in both English and his native German. It discusses existing perceptions of his poetry and challenges the assumptions that his poetic work was a mere hobby unrelated to his other achievements by focusing on the interplay between poetic images and scientific ideas in his German-language poems. It emphasizes that more research is needed on the understated role of bilingualism and of—often marginalized—writing in an adopted language in science and in poetry, with the premise that this feature of Schrödinger’s life deserves more study. It argues that Schrödinger’s literary imagination and his bilingualism are an integral part of his approach to reality and considers Schrödinger’s literary work to be an important aspect of his intellectual heritage.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Adams, C. (1982). The story of Schroedinger’s cat (an epic poem). In The straight dope. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/113/the-story-of-schroedingers-cat-an-epic-poem. Accessed 15 Feb 2012.

  2. Albright, D. (1997). Quantum poetics: Yeats, pound, eliot, and the science of modernism. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Amrine, F., Zucker, F., & Wheeler, H. (Ed.) (1987). Goethe and the sciences: A reappraisal. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.

  4. Aпocтoлoвa, И. [Apostolova. I.] (1990). Hayчнa oбщнocm и филocoфcки пpeдпocmaвки [Scientific community and philosophical premises]. Sofia: Nauka i izkustvo.

  5. Azzouni, S. (2007). How Wilhelm Dithey influenced popular science writing. Kurd Laßwitz’s “homchen: Ein Tiermärchen aus der oberen Kreide”. In Feest, U. (Ed.). Historical perspectives on Erklären and Versetehen: An interdisciplinary Workshop (pp. 49–66). Berlin: MPIWG Preprint 324.

  6. Benn, G. (2003). Rede auf Stefan George. In Wellershoff, D. (Ed.). Gotfried Benn. Essays und Aufsätze, Gesammelte Werke. Frankfurt: Zweitausendeins.

  7. Born, M. (1953). The interpretation of quantum mechanics. In British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 4(14), 95–106.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Born, M. (1954). The statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics. Nobel Lecture. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1954/born-lecture.pdf. Accessed 10 Dec 2012.

  9. Callaghan, C. (2000). Schroedinger’s cat. In Dark planet. An archive of science fiction, modern fantasy, poetry, and related nonfiction. http://darkplanet.basespace.net/poetry/schrocat.html. Accessed 15 Feb 2012.

  10. Carter, S. (1990). Robert Duncan and Erwin Schrödinger: Esthetics of the wave function. Studies in the Humanities, 17(1), 36–48.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Coletta, W. J., & Tarmes, D. H. (1992). Robert frost and the poetry of physics. The Physics Teacher, 30(6), 360–365.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Dick, A. (2008). Vorwort. In E. Schrödinger, Mein leben, meine Weltansicht (pp. 5–10). München: dtv.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Duncan, R. (1973). Towards an open universe. In D. Allen & T. Warren (Eds.), The poetic of the new American poetry (pp. 212–225). New York: Grove Press.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Eliot, T. S. (2004). Yeats. Lecture in the Irish Academy, Dublin 1940. http://www.ancientsites.com/aw/Post/327817. Accessed 30 April 2012.

  15. Elkana, Y. (1992). Erwin Schrödinger as historian—Notes towards an interpretation. In J. Götschl (Ed.), Erwin Schrödinger’s world view: The dynamics of knowledge and reality (pp. 115–134). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  16. Erbefels, R. (2009). Schrödinger’s Katze. In A. Schreiber (Ed.), Die Leier des Pythagoras Gedichte aus mathematischen Gründen. Wiesbaden: Vieweg+Teubner Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Fix, U., Habscheid, S., & Klein, J. (Eds.). (2001). Zur Kulturspezifik von Textsorten. Tübingen: Stauffenburg.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Fleck, L. (1979). Genesis and development of a scientific fact. Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Flitner, W. (Ed.) (1949). Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi: Ausgewählte Schriften. Godesberg: Verlag Helmut Küpper, formally Georg Bondi.

  20. Forman, P. (1971). Weimar culture, causality and quantum theory 1918–1927: Adaptation by German physicists and mathematicians to a hostile intellectual environment. Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, 3, 1–115.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Foucault, M. (1994). Order of things: An archeology of human sciences. New York: Vintage Books Edition.

    Google Scholar 

  22. George, S. (1958). Werke in zwei Bänden. München: Verlag Helmut Küpper, formerly Georg Bondi.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Götschl, J. (1992). The study of nature and the emergence of world view—Philosophical reflections on E. Schrödinger’s approach. In J. Götschl (Ed.), Erwin Schrödinger’s world view: The dynamics of knowledge and reality (pp. 173–182). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  24. Götschl, J., & Leinfellner, W. (1992). Introduction. In J. Götschl (Ed.), Erwin Schrödinger’s world view: The dynamics of knowledge and reality (pp. 1–15). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  25. Greiner, U. (2004). Da lachen die Fische. Bringt Poesie in unsere Städte! In Die Zeit 33 (2004), retrieved from http://www.zeit.de/2004/33/Glosse-Lit. Accessed 15 Dec 2012.

  26. Gribbin, J. (2012). Erwin Schrödinger and the quantum revolution. London: Bantam Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Heisenberg, W. (1971). Physics and beyond. New York: HarperCollins.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Heisenberg, W. (2007). Physics and philosophy: The revolution in modern science. New York: HarperCollins.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Irretier, H. (2001). Grundlagen der Schwingungstechnik 2: Systeme mit mehreren Freiheitsgraden, Kontinuierliche Systeme. Braunschweig, Wiesbaden: VerlagVieweg.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  30. Keller, E. F. (1985). Reflections on gender and science. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Kipperman, M. (1986). The rhetorical case against a theory of literature and science. Philosophy and Literature, 10, 76–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Koch, R. (1989). Hypotyposes. In F. Amrine & R. Cohen (Eds.), Literature and science as modes of expression (pp. 81–99). Boston: Kluwer Academic Publications.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  33. Latour, B. (1997). Foreword. In I. Strengers (Ed.), Power and invention: Situating science (pp. VII–XVII). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Levine, G. (Ed.). (1987). One culture, essays in science and literature. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Lyu, C. C. (2006). A sun without a sun: The power and elegance of poetry. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Moore, W. (1989). Schrödinger life and thought. Cambridge: Cambrdige University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Otis, L. (2010). Science surveys and histories of literature: Reflections on an uneasy kinship. Isis, 101(3), 570–577.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Partington, L. T. (2012). Preface of the editor. In The atomic poems of margaret (Lucas) Cavendish, Duches of Newcastle, from her Poems and Fancies, 1653. Emory Women Writers Resource Project. http://womenwriters.library.emory.edu/toc.php?id=atomic&keyword=partington. Accessed 20 Jan 2012.

  39. Pasternak, B. (1988). Пacтepнaк, Б. [Pasternak, B.] (1988). Дoктop Живaгo. [Doctor Zhivago]. Oкoнчaтeльный aвтopcкий тeкcт poмaнa. Hoвый миp № 1–4.

  40. Perloff, M. (1981). The poetics of indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Planck, M. (1936). The philosophy of physics. New York: W.W.Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Plotinsky, A. (2004). “In principle observable”: Werner Heisenberg’s discovery of quantum mechanics and romantic imagination. Parallax, 10(3), 20–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Raman, V. V., & Forman, P. (1969). Why was it Schrödinger who developed de Broglie’s ideas? Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, 1, 291–314.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Renn, J. (1998). Rettung aus Sehnot. In L. Daston, J. Renn, & H.-J. Rheinberger (Eds.), Visions (pp. 25–36). Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Röseberg, U. (1992). Erwin Schrödinger’s position in the Einstein-Bohr Debate. In J. Götschl (Ed.), Erwin Schrödinger’s world view: The dynamics of knowledge and reality (pp. 135–152). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  46. Sagan, C. (2012). On Johannes Kepler’s Persecution. You Tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAVeTFin0mU/watch?v=lAVeTFin0mU. Accessed 15 Feb 2012.

  47. Schreiber, A. (2009). Die Leier des Pythagoras: Gedichte aus mathematischen Gründen. Wiesbaden: Vieweg+Teubner Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Schreiber, A. (2012). Lob des Fünfecks: Mathematisch angehauchte Gedichte. Wiesbaden: Springer Spektrum.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  49. Schröder, H. (1995). Der Stil wissenschaftlichen Schreibens zwischen Disziplin, Kultur und Paradigma—Methodologische Anmerkungen zur interkulturellen Stilforschung. In G. Stickel (Ed.), Stillfragen. Jahrbuch 1994 des Instituts für deutsche Sprache (pp. 150–180). Berlin/New York: de Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Schrödinger, E. (1915). Kriegstagebuch 1915. In Östereichische Zentralbibliothek für Physik (Ed). Nachlass Erwin Schrödinger o. https://phaidra.univie.ac.at/detail_object/o:164374.

  51. Schrödinger, E. (1926). Quantisierung als Eigenwertproblem I-II. Annalen der Physik, 79(361–376), 489–527.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Schrödinger, E. (1935a). Die gegenwärtige Situation in der Quantenmechanik. Part 1-3. Naturwissenschaften. 23 (807-812; 823-828; 844-849). (The present situation in quantum mechanics). Translated by John D. Trimmer. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. http://hermes.ffn.ub.es/luisnavarro/nuevo_maletin/Schrodinger_1935_cat.pdf. Accessed 30 April 2012.

  53. Schrödinger, E. (1935b). Science and the human temperament. London: Allen & Unwin.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Schrödinger, E. (1944). What is Life? http://whatislife.stanford.edu/LoCo_files/What-is-Life.pdf. Accessed 20 Jan 2012.

  55. Schrödinger, E. (1945). “Private” Texte, Briefentwürfe und Gedichte (en). In Östereichische Zentralbibliothek für Physik (Ed) Nachlass Erwin Schrödinger. https://phaidra.univie.ac.at/detail_object/o:163422?tab=92#mda. Accessed 15 Dec 2012.

  56. Schrödinger, E. (1949). Gedichte. Godesberg: Verlag Helmut Küpper, vormals Georg Bondi.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Schrödinger, E. (1952). Are there quantum jumps? The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 3, 109–123 and 233–242.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Schrödinger, E. (1953). Brief von Schrödinger, Erwin an Born, Max ([Dublin], 1953-04-11). Nachlass Erwin Schrödinger o:260744. https://phaidra.univie.ac.at/detail_object/o:260744. Accessed 15 Dec 2012.

  59. Schrödinger, E. (1954). Nature and the Greeks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Schrödinger, E. (1955). Fragment from an unpublished dialogue of Galileo. In Blue Coat Annual King’s Hospital school magazine, Dublin. http://www.kingshospital.ie/thekingshospital/Files/Schroedinger%20Bluecoat.pdf. Accessed 20 Oct 2012.

  61. Schrödinger, E. (1967). What is life? Mind and matter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  62. Schrödinger, E. (1987). La mia visione del mondo. La mia vita. Poesie. Milano: Garzanti.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Schrödinger, E. (2006). Mein leben, meine Weltansicht. München: DTV Deutscher Taschenbuch.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Schrott, R., & Jacobs, A. (2012). Gehirn und Gedicht: Wie wir unsere Wirklichkeiten konstruieren. München: Hanser.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Shapin, S., & Schaffer, S. (1985). Leviathan and the air-pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the experimental life. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Shimek, S. (2001). In uncertain times: Poetry, physics, and the representation in the quantum era. Los Angeles: University of California.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Shinn, T., & Whitely, R. (1985). Editorial preface. In T. Shinn & R. Whitely (Eds.), Expository science: Forms and functions of popularisation (pp. VII–XI). Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  68. Sofronieva, T. (2012a). Das Vererben vom Wissen. In C. Chiellino (Ed.), Michael Krüger. Eine Einführung mit Materialien und einer Bibliografie (pp. 107–126). Dresden: Thelem Universitätsverlag.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Sofronieva, T. (2012b). Words, worlds, and the in-between. Internal Paper. Cambridge: MIT FL&L.

  70. Stein, G. (1933). The autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Trenn, T. J. (1979). Preface. In L. Fleck (Ed.), Genesis and development of a scientific fact (pp. XIII–XIX). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  72. von Chamisso, A. (1814). Peter Schlemihl’s wundersame Geschichte. Deutsches Textarchiv. http://www.deutschestextarchiv.de/chamisso/schlemihl/1814/. Accessed 30 April 2012.

  73. von Greiff, B. (2001). Hat Galilei seine Zeit verschwendet? Gegenworte, 7, 49–52.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Watson, J. D. (2001). The double helix: A personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA. New York: Touchstone.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Weininger, S. J. (1989). Introduction: The evolution of literature and science as a discipline. In F. Amrine & R. Cohen (Eds.), Literature and science as modes of expression. Boston studies in the philosophy of science (Vol. 115, pp. XIII–XXV). Boston: Kluwer Academic Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Whorf, B. (1956). Language, thought and reality. Cambridge: The M.I.T. Press.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Wikipedia. (2011). Lyrik. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyrik. Accessed 15 Dec 2011.

  78. Wikipedia. (2012a). Erwin Schrödinger. Personal life. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_Schr%C3%B6dinger#Personal_life. Accessed 20 Jan 2012.

  79. Wikipedia. (2012b) Maire Annharte Baker. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Annharte_Baker. Accessed 20 Oct 2012.

  80. Wikipedia. (2012c). Schrödinger’s cat in the popular culture. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger%27s_cat_in_popular_culture#Literature. Accessed 20 Oct 2012.

  81. Wohlmuth, M. (2007). Gedanken über ein Gedicht des berühmten Physikers Erwin Schrödinger. Praxis der Naturwissenschaften: Chemie in der Schule, 56(7), 32–33.

    Google Scholar 

  82. Wright, C. (2007). »BRINGT POESIE IN UNSERE STÄDTE! «Obrigkeitsdeutsch and Exophonic Literature. In T. Sofronieva (Ed.), Verbotene worte. digital anthology. Kakanien revisited. http://www.kakanien.ac.at/beitr/verb_worte/CWright1/?page=4. Accessed 15 Dec 2012.

  83. Wright, C. (2008). Writing in the “grey zone”: Exophonic literature in contemporary Germany. GfL: German as a Foreign Language, 3, 26–42.

    Google Scholar 

  84. Wright, C. (2010). Exophony and literary translation. What it means for the translator when a writer adopts a new language. Target: International Journal of Translation Studies, 22(1), 22–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  85. Yeats, W. B. (1958). The collected poems. London: Macmillan & CO LTD.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tzveta Sofronieva.

Additional information

The citations from the German poems by E. Schrödinger are translated into English by T. Sofronieva.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sofronieva, T. Erwin Schrödinger’s Poetry. Sci & Educ 23, 655–672 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-013-9579-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Quantum Mechanic
  • Literary Work
  • Scientific Idea
  • Scientific Text
  • Literary Imagination