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Friedrich Hund: A Pioneer of Quantum Chemistry (1896–1997)

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Very few physicists who laid the foundation stone of quantum mechanics have played as important a role in chemistry as Friedrich Hund [1]. The following two significant contributions bear his name. (i) ‘Hund’s rules’ dealing with the electronic configuration of atoms and the atomic term symbols. These rules are now a part of high school chemistry worldwide and have been generalized to diatomic molecules by Hund himself. (ii) ‘Hund’s coupling cases’ called by him as (a) to (d) addressing the ways in which various quantum mechanical angular momenta (electron spin, orbital angular momentum, rotation) couple to form the total angular momentum via vector addition. Another early and pioneering work by Hund was on the quantum mechanical tunneling effect. However, the most significant and long-lasting contribution of Hund, together with Mulliken, was to establish the molecular orbital (MO) theory on a firm footing. In view of this, the MO theory became known as the Mulliken—Hund MO theory.

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Suggested Reading

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The authors are thankful to Professors K. S. Viswanathan and N. Sathyamurthy for reading this manuscript critically and making valuable suggestions.

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Correspondence to Shridhar R. Gadre or Nityananda Sahu.

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Shridhar Gadre served as a Professor of Chemistry at the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) for 30 years, followed by a 6-year stint at IIT Kanpur. Later, he served as a Distinguished Professor at SPPU. Currently, he is working as an INSA Senior Scientist at SPPU. His research areas are theoretical and computational chemistry, with special interest in historical aspects.

Nityananda Sahu did his PhD at IIT Kanpur under the supervision of Prof. Shridhar Gadre. Later, he joined Prof. Walter Thiel as a postdoctoral fellow (PDF) for 2 years. Since November 2018, he is working as a PDF with Prof. Robert Berger at Philipps University Marburg. His research interests include theoretical and computational chemistry.

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Gadre, S.R., Sahu, N. Friedrich Hund: A Pioneer of Quantum Chemistry (1896–1997). Reson 27, 1483–1500 (2022).

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