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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

6 - The Rise of Quantum Theory

from Part II - The Quantum Field Programme for Fundamental Interactions


The origin of the relativity theories was closely bound up with the development of electromagnetic concepts, a development that approached a coherent field-theoretical formulation, according to which all actions may vary in a continuous manner. In contrast, quantum theory arose out of the development of atomic concepts, a development that was characterized by the acknowledgment of a fundamental limitation to classical physical ideas when applied to atomic phenomena. This restriction was expressed in the so-called quantum postulate, which attributed to any atomic process an essential discontinuity that was symbolized by Planck’s quantum of action and soon incarnated in quantization condition (commutation or anticommutation relations) and uncertainty relations.