, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 411–427 | Cite as

Bird of passage at four universities

Student days of Rudolph Peierls
  • G. BaskaranEmail author
General / Article


A glimpse into the student life of Rudolph Peierls, when he was 18–22 years old, gives us a flavor of happenings during the birth of quantum mechanics and how one started understanding properties of matter such as a metal and a semiconductor, using the newly found quantum mechanics. It also shows how a bright young mind could get nurtured and shaped when placed in a proper environment. Peierls, during his college days, had the opportunity to work closely with three great physicists, Sommerfeld, Heisenberg and Pauli, in succession spending one year with each. This experience had its effect — Peierls’s discovery of hole theory of electrical conduction in solids, formulation of the theory of thermal conduction in solids, analysis of anharmonic interactions and discovery of Umklapp process. It is also interesting that the academic load was far from a burden and was filled with weekend activities and summer vacations involving sailing, skiing, hiking and concerts.


Peierls Sommerfeld Heisenberg Pauli theoretical physics electron theory of solids 


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Institute of Mathematical SciencesChennaiIndia

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