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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2020

17 - The Triumph of the Light Quantum Hypothesis

from Case Study V - The Origins of the Concepts of Quantisation and Quanta


Einstein never deviated from his belief in the reality of light quanta. In 1909, he published a remarkable paper in which he showed that fluctuations in the intensity of black-body radiation consisted of the statistical sum of the wave and particle properties of light. Following the 1911 Solvay conference, most of the participants were converted to the existence of light quanta. Bohr first applied the concepts of quanta to the structure of atoms. The experiment which finally convinced everyone of the light quantum hypothesis was Compton's demonstration of the energy change of X-rays in their scattering by electrons. This resulted in the concept of the wave-particle duality of light, one of the major foundation stones of quantum mechanics.