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Grete Hermann (1901–1984): Philosopher of Quantum Physics

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At first glance the pioneers of quantum physics and relativity may seem to be an all-male club: Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, Max Born, Paul Dirac, Enrico Fermi, and later Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann are perhaps the best known. But the names Emmy Noether, Marie Curie, and Lise Meitner remind us that women also made significant contributions to these new fields of knowledge. And in addition to these three outstanding female scientists, there is a fourth woman whose achievements have only recently been rediscovered: Grete Hermann.

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  1. 1.

    Grete Hermann, The question of finitely many steps in the theory of polynomial ideals, Mathematische Annalen, 95 (1926) pp. 736–788.

  2. 2.

    Grete Hermann, Die naturphilosophischen Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik, §7, Abhandlungen der Fries'schen Schule (ASFNF), Vol. 6, issue 2 (1935), p. 76.

  3. 3.

    The author has adapted the notation in the quote for better readability. The expectation function is denoted here by E(R), rather than (Rφ,φ).

  4. 4.

    Grete Hermann, Die naturphilosophischen Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik, §7: “Der Zirkel in Neumanns Beweis”, Abhandlungen der Fries'schen Schule (ASFNF) 6, Heft 2 (1935), p. 99.

  5. 5.

    Werner Heisenberg, Wandlungen der Grundlagen der exakten Naturwissenschaft in jüngster Zeit, lecture to the Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians, Hanover, 17 September 1934, Angewandte Chemie 47 (1934).

  6. 6.

    Erwin Schrödinger, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, Naturwissenschaften 23 (1935).

  7. 7.

    John Bell, On the Problem of Hidden Variables in Quantum Mechanics, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (1964); published in: Review of Modern Physics, Vol. 38, No. 3 (July 1966), pp. 447–452;

  8. 8.

    To be more precise: Only local hidden variables are ruled out by experiment. Nonlocal ones are theoretically possible.

  9. 9.

    Erwin Schrödinger, Discussion of probability relations between separate systems. Proceedings of the Cambridge Physical Society, 31, 55 (1935).

  10. 10.

    Richard Feynman, Simulating physics with computers, International Journal of Theoretical Physics 21(1982), pp. 467–488.

  11. 11.

    Grete Hermann, Die naturphilosophischen Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik, Die Naturwissenschaften, 23, 42 (1935) pp. 718–721.

  12. 12.

    Werner Heisenberg, The Part and the Whole, R. Piper & Co. Verlag (1969).

  13. 13.

    Kay Herrmann (Ed.), Grete Hermann: Philosophy—Mathematics—Quantum Mechanics, Springer (2019).

  14. 14.


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Correspondence to Lars Jaeger .

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Jaeger, L. (2023). Grete Hermann (1901–1984): Philosopher of Quantum Physics. In: Women of Genius in Science . Springer, Cham.

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