Von Neumann’s Theory of Quantum Measurement

  • Jeffrey Bub
Part of the Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook [2000] book series (VCIY, volume 8)


In a series of lectures written around 1952, Schrödinger refers to von Neumann’s account of measurement in quantum mechanics as follows:

I said quantum physicists bother very little about accounting, according to the accepted law, for the supposed change of the wave-function by measurement. I know of only one attempt in this direction, to which Dr. Balazs recently directed my attention. You find it in John von Neumann’s well-known book. With great acuity he constructs one analytical example. It does not refer to any actual experiment, it is purely analytical. He indicates in a simple case a supplementary operator which, when added to the internal wave operator, would with any desired approximation turn the wave function as time goes on into an eigenfunction of the observable that is measured. He found it necessary to show that such a mechanism is analytically possible. The idea has not been taken up and worked out since — in about twenty years or more. Indeed I do not think it would pay. I do not believe any real measuring device is of this kind. ([1], p. 83)


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    E. Schrödinger, The Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics ( Woodbridge, CT: Ox Bow Press, 1995 ).Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    J. von Neumann, Mathematische Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik ( Berlin: Springer, 1932 ).Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    J. von Neumann, Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics ( Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955 ).Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    J. von Neumann, ‘Unsolved Problems in Mathematics’ Unpublished address to the International Mathematical Congress, Amsterdam, September 2, 1954. Typescript, von Neumann Archives, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; first published in this volume.Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    P.A.M. Dirac, Quantum Mechanics ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958 ).Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    A. Einstein, B. Podolsky, and N. Rosen, ‘Can Quantum Mechanical Description of Physical Reality be Considered Complete?’ Physical Review 47 (1935), 777–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. [7]
    A. Fine, ‘Probability and the Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics,’ British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 24 (1973), 1–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. [8]
    D. Bohm, ‘A Suggested Interpretation of Quantum Theory in Terms of “Hidden Variables” ’ Parts I and II, Physical Review 85, 166–79, 180–93.Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    J. Bub, Interpreting the Quantum World ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey Bub
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations