The European Physical Journal H

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 379–399 | Cite as

On the first Solvay Congress in 1911

  • Norbert StraumannEmail author


Late in October 1911, eighteen leading scientists from all over Europe met to the first of a famous sequence of Solvay conferences in Brussels. This historical meeting was mainly devoted to “The Theory of Radiation and the Quanta”, at a time when the foundations of physics were totally shaken. Although “nothing positive came out” (Einstein), it is interesting to see the diverging attitudes of Europe’s most famous scientists in the middle of the quantum revolution. After a few general remarks about the conference, I shall focus on some of the most interesting contributions and discussions. Einstein, at 32 the youngest, was clearly most aware of the profound nature of the crises. He gave the final talk entitled “The Present State of the Problem of Specific Heats”, but he put his theme into the larger context of the quantum problem, and caused a barrage of challenges, in particular from Lorentz, Planck, Poincaré, and others.


Black Body Radiation Quantization Rule Energy Element Quantum Hypothesis Famous Scientist 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Born, M. and T. von Kármán. 1912. Über Schwingungen in Raumgittern. Phys. Zeitschr. 13: 297–309Google Scholar
  2. Born, M. and T. von Kármán. 1913. Zur Theorie der spezifischen Wärme. Phys. Zeitschr. 14: 15–19Google Scholar
  3. Debye, P. 1910. Der Wahrscheinlichkeitsbegriff in der Theorie der Strahlung. Ann. Phys. 33: 1427–1434CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  4. Debye, P. 1912. Zur Theorie der spezifischen Wärme. Ann. Phys. 39: 789–839CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  5. Ehrenfest, P. 1913. Bemerkung betreffs der spezifischen Wärme zweiatomiger Gase. Verh. D. Phys. Ges. 15: 451–457Google Scholar
  6. Einstein, A. 1906. On the Theory of Light Production and Light Absorption. CPAE, Vol. 2, Doc. 34Google Scholar
  7. Einstein, A. 1907. Planck’s Theory and the Theory of specific Heat. CPAE, Vol. 2, Doc. 38Google Scholar
  8. Einstein, A. 1909a. On the present State of the Radiation Problem. CPAE, Vol. 2, Doc. 56Google Scholar
  9. Einstein, A. 1909b. On the Development of ou Views concerning the Nature and Constitution of Radiation. CPAE, Vol. 2, Doc. 60Google Scholar
  10. Einstein, A. 1910a. Ueber das Boltzmann’sche Prinzip und und einige aus ihm zu ziehende Folgerungen., to appear in CPAE
  11. Einstein, A. 1910b. The Theory of the Opalescence of homogeneous Fluids and liquid Mixtures near the ctitical State. CPAE, Vol. 3. Doc. 9Google Scholar
  12. Einstein, A. 1911a. Letter from Einstein to Besso. CPAE, Vol. 5, Doc. 283Google Scholar
  13. Einstein, A. 1911b. Letter from Einstein to Zangger. CPAE, Vol. 5, Doc. 305Google Scholar
  14. Einstein, A. 1911c. Letter from Einstein to Besso. CPAE, Vol. 5, Doc. 331Google Scholar
  15. Einstein, A. 1911d. Letter from Einstein to Marie Curie, Vol. 5, Doc. 312a (This letter is included at the beginning of CPAE, Vol. 8, p. 7.)Google Scholar
  16. Einstein, A. 1916. On the Quantum Theory of Radiation. CPAE, Vol. 6, Doc. 38Google Scholar
  17. Einstein, A. 1949. Autobiographical Notes. In Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, edited by P.A. Schilpp (Illinois: The Library of Living Philosophers), pp. 2–94Google Scholar
  18. Einstein, A. 1987–2010. The collected papers of Albert Einstein, CPAE, edited by J. Stachel et al., Princeton University Press, Princeton, Vols. 1–12Google Scholar
  19. Einstein, A. and L. Hopf. 1910. Statistical Investigation of a Resonator’s Motion in a Radiation Field. CPAE, Vol. 3, Doc. 8Google Scholar
  20. Eucken, A. (Ed.). 1914. Die Theorie der Strahlung und der Quanten. Verhandlungen auf einer von E. Solvay einberufenen Zusammenkunft (30.Oktober bis 3. November 1911), mit einem Anhang über die Entwicklung der Quantentheorie vom Herbst 1911 bis Sommer 1913. Knapp, Halle a.S. A published French translation appeared two years earlier in: P. Langevin and M. de Broglie (Eds.) 1912. La théorie du rayonnement et les quanta. Rapports et discussions de la réunion tenue à Bruxelles, du 30 octobre au 3 novembre 1911, sous les auspices de M. E. Solvay. Paris: Gauthier-VillarsGoogle Scholar
  21. Frisch, R. 1933. Experimenteller Nachweis des Einsteinschen Strahlungsrückstoßes. Z. Phys. 86: 42–48ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Galison, P. 2007. Solvay Redivivus, in The Quantum Structure of Space and Time, Proceedings of the 23rd Solvay Conference on Physics, edited by D. Gross, M. Henneaux, and A. Sevrin, World Scientific Publishing, p. 1-18Google Scholar
  23. Hund, F. 1967. Geschichte der Quantentheorie, Bibliographisches Institut, Mannheim; transl. Gordon Reece, The History of Quantum Theory. Harper and Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. Natanson, L. 1911. Über die statistische Theorie der Strahlung. Phys. Zeitschr. 12: 659–666Google Scholar
  25. Pais, A. 1982. “Subtle is the Lord...”: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  26. Pauli, W. 1949. Einstein’s Contributions to Quantum Theory, in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, edited by P.A. Schilpp. Illinois: The Library of Living Philosophers, pp. 149–160Google Scholar
  27. Perrin, J. 1913. Les Atomes, A new edition of the original text has appeared in Flammarion (1991), ISBN 2-08-081225–4; for an English translation, see: J. Perrin, Atoms, Van Nostrand (1916)Google Scholar
  28. Planck, M. 1900. Zur Theorie des Gesetzes der Energieverteilung im Normalspektrum. Verh. D. Phys. Ges. 2: 237–245Google Scholar
  29. Planck, M. 1907. Letter from Planck to Einstein, CPAE, Vol. 5, Doc. 47Google Scholar
  30. Planck, M. 1911. Eine neue Strahlungshypothese. Verh. D. Phys. Ges. 13: 138–148Google Scholar
  31. Planck, M. 1931. Letter from Max Planck to Robert W. Wood, Archive for the History of Quantum Physics, Microfilm 66, 5Google Scholar
  32. Sommerfeld, A. 1952. Vorlesungen über Theoretische Physik. Band V. Thermodynamik und Statistik, Sect. 20. Klemm G.M.B.H., WiesbadenGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© EDP Sciences and Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Theoretical PhysicsUniversity of ZürichZürichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations