Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 January 2009
In concluding his ‘Autobiographical notes’, Albert Einstein explained that the purpose of his exposition was to ‘show the reader how the efforts of a life hang together and why they have led to expectations of a definite form’. Einstein's remarks tell of a coherence between personal ‘strivings and searchings’ and scientific activity, which has all but vanished in the midst of the current trend of social constructivism in history of science. As Nancy Nersessian recently pointed out, in the process of illuminating complex relationships between scientific activity and its social context, ‘socio-historical analysis has “black-boxed” the individual scientist’. Has the pendulum swung too far? In reaction to the preceding great-man hagiographie approach to the history of science, the social constructivists have largely ‘thrown the baby out with the bathwater’; consideration of individual scientists' personal approaches to science was unnecessarily expunged with the removal of ‘genius’ as an explanatory tool.
This study was completed at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA. I would like to thank Naomi Oreskes, Joseph Harris, Richard Kremer and Leonard Rieser for their most valuable discussions. I also received helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper from Jan Faye, Henry Folse and Mara Beller. Some preliminary translations of German text were completed by Matthew Henken. Finally, I would like to thank the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College for providing financial support during the course of this research.
Permission to quote from the Einstein Archives material was granted by the Albert Einstein Archives, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
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9 Both Henry Folse's and Dugald Murdoch's book-length investigations of Bohr's philosophy of physics dedicate merely fleeting glances to Einstein's position: Folse, H., The Philosophy of Niels Bohr: The Framework of Complementarity, New York, 1985Google Scholar; and Murdoch, D., Niels Bohr's Philosophy of Physics, New York, 1987CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Symmetric accounts address both sides equally, but further dissolve the people behind the arguments: Einstein and Bohr the physicists, with particular motivations, goals and ‘expectations’, are nowhere to be found. Cf., e.g., Hooker, C. A., ‘The nature of quantum mechanical reality: Einstein versus Bohr’, in Paradigms & Paradoxes: The Philosophical Challenge of the Quantum Domain (ed. Colodny, R.), Pittsburgh, 1972, 67–302Google Scholar; and Bunge, M., ‘The Einstein–Bohr debate: who was right about what?’, in Einstein Symposium Berlin (ed. Nelkowski, H.), New York, 1979, 204–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar. All of these philosophical accounts of the debate share a common disregard for how Einstein's and Bohr's respective positions reflected the physicists' own particular approaches to science.
Henry Folse has recently called for a redrawing of philosophers' maps of the Einstein–Bohr debate, in order better to reflect the issues the way they were actually discussed by the participants (Folse, H., ‘Niels Bohr's concept of reality’, in Symposium on the Foundations of Modern Physics (ed. Lahti, P. and Mittelstaedt, P.), Singapore, 1987, 161–79Google Scholar; Folse, H., ‘The Bohr–Einstein debate and the philosophers' debate over realism versus anti-realism’, paper presented at the 06 1992 Beijing Conference on Realism)Google Scholar. This approach on the philosophers' side fits nicely with the personal-context approach to history of science addressed here. My thanks to Professor Folse for providing copies of these papers.
13 Throughout this paper, I use the word ‘language’ in the narrow sense of words and descriptions as they are written or spoken, rather than as a general term for communication of any kind. Einstein and Bohr used the word ‘language’ in this sense in their own writings. Thus, ‘language’ here is different from, for example, visual pictures or mathematical formalism. See Rudwick, M., ‘The emergence of a visual language for geological science, 1760–1840’, History of Science (1976), 14, 149–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar, for a discussion of non-verbal, visual languages in science.
16 See Crease, R. and Mann, C., The Second Creation: Makers of a Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics, New York, 1986, 20–1Google Scholar; and Pais, A., Niels Bohr's Times in Physics, Philosophy, and Polity, Oxford, 1991, 102–3Google Scholar. Many Bohr scholars have split over the primacy of language in Bohr's personal approach to science, as presented here. Whereas Jan Faye, Henry Folse and Mara Beller have expressed reservations (in personal communications) about the degree to which Bohr's personal approach to physics relied upon semantic-linguistic considerations, Edward MacKinnon, Catherine Chevalley and John Honner have portrayed Bohr's work, in Honner's words, in terms of ‘the relationship…between word and world, and between language and fact’ (Honner, J., The Description of Nature: Niels Bohr and the Philosophy of Quantum Physics, New York, 1987, 7Google Scholar. See also MacKinnon, E., ‘Bohr and the realism debate’, in Niels Bohr and Contemporary Philosophy (ed. Faye, J. and Folse, H.), Dordrecht, 1994, 279–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Chevalley, C., ‘Niels Bohr's words and the Atlantis of Kantianism’Google Scholar, in ibid., 33–56). It is clear that Bohr was interested in communication from the start of his career, and in my interpretation, his emotional preference for working with groups came in tandem with a deep-seated interest in the role of language in science. He made public pronouncements about the role of language more frequently following the 1935 paper by Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen (discussed below), but the methodological roots of his semantic orientation may be traced earlier than his post-1935 work.
19 Einstein, A., ‘The common language of science’, in Ideas and Opinions, 2nd edn (ed. Seelig, C.), 1982, 335–6.Google Scholar
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22 Folse, H., The Philosophy of Niels Bohr: The Framework of Complementarity, New York, 1985, 32.Google Scholar
26 Bergmann, Peter G., ‘Working with Einstein’ Panel Discussion, reprinted in Woolf, H. (ed.), Some Strangeness in the Proportion: A Centennial Symposium to Celebrate the Achievements of Albert Einstein, Reading, Mass., 1980, 479.Google Scholar
29 Letter from Einstein to Henry Allen Hoe at the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 28 November 1954. Einstein Archives, Box 6, #6–056; copies in the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.
31 This approximate value comes from a survey of the resources compiled in the Niels Bohr Collected Works volumes.
32 Bohr, N., Kramers, H. and Slater, J., ‘The quantum theory of radiation’, reprinted in Sources of Quantum Mechanics (ed. van der Waerden, B. L.), New York, 1967, 162.Google Scholar
35 Werner Heisenberg, interview conducted by Kuhn, Thomas S., 30 11 1962, p. 14Google Scholar of transcript; copies in the American Institute of Physics Niels Bohr Library, New York, and other repositories of the Archives for the History of Quantum Physics (AHQP-AIP). Cf. Folse, , op. cit. (22), 41–2.Google Scholar
38 Quoted in Petersen, A., ‘The philosophy of Niels Bohr’, in Niels Bohr: A Centenary Volume (ed. French, A. P. and Kennedy, P. J.), Cambridge, Mass., 1985, 302Google Scholar. Henry Folse rightfully cautions against placing too much emphasis upon Petersen's very linguistic portrayal of Bohr's philosophy: many of the quotations attributed to Bohr were not written down, but rather recalled by Petersen during a time when linguistic analysis was very popular (personal communication).
39 Bohr, N., unpublished ‘Post scriptum,’ dated 13 08 1957Google Scholar. Niels Bohr Archive: Bohr Manuscripts, reel 22; copies in AHQP-AIP. This short article was intended to follow the reprint of his ‘Discussion with Einstein on epistemological problems in atomic physics’ in Bohr, , op. cit. (15).Google Scholar
41 Jaki, S., God and the Cosmologists, Washington, DC, 1989, 138–9Google Scholar. Cf. Fine, , op. cit. (10), 34, 124Google Scholar, where he dismisses Bohr as simply ‘the nonrealist’, and calls Bohr's response to the 1935 Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen paper ‘textbook neopositivism’. Jan Faye's recent analysis also paints Bohr as an anti-realist. See Faye, J., Niels Bohr: His Heritage and Legacy, Boston, 1991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
42 Several analyses of Bohr's philosophy of physics have attempted to demonstrate a possible compatibility between Bohr's ontological position and realism: cf. Folse, , op. cit. (22), 222–60Google Scholar; Murdoch, , op. cit. (9), 200–22Google Scholar; and Daniel, W., ‘Bohr, Einstein and realism’, Dialectica (1989), 43, 250–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Yet this approach can lead to pitfalls. For example, Murdoch states that Bohr was partly a ‘weak realist’ (p. 216), an ‘instrumental realist’ (p. 222), and that he incorporated a ‘pragmatist strain’ (p. 231). This constant need to qualify each description illustrates the benefits of adopting Arthur Fine's stance of dropping ‘isms’ from the analysis (Fine, , op. cit. (10), 9Google Scholar). This sentiment is evident in some of Henry Poise's recent work, in which he has explained that Einstein's and Bohr's confrontation will be ‘misconstrued’ if staged ‘on the philosopher's battle plain of realism versus antirealism’. Folse, H., ‘The Bohr-Einstein debate and the philosophers' debate over realism versus anti-realism’, paper presented at the 06 1992Google Scholar Beijing Conference on Realism. For a brief look at questions of Bohr's ontological approach and modern particle physics, see Kaiser, D., ‘Niels Bohr's conceptual legacy in contemporary particle physics’ in Niels Bohr and Contemporary Philosophy (ed. Paye, J. and Folse, H.), Dordrecht, 1994, 257–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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45 This outline is for the sixth lecture of Bohr's Gifford Lectures. The notes are dated 14 July 1949. Niels Bohr Archive: Bohr Manuscripts, reel 19; copies in AHQP-AIP.
46 Rosenthal-Schneider, I., Reality and Scientific Truth: Discussions with Einstein, von Laue, and Planck, Detroit, 1980, 92Google Scholar. This and the following discussion of Einstein's ontological position, scientific goal and methodological approach to science all concern his outlook as it had developed and stabilized prior to the beginning of the debate, i.e. roughly by 1920. For descriptions of Einstein's earlier positions, cf. Fine, , op. cit. (10), 12–25Google Scholar; Holton, , op. cit. (17), 191–370Google Scholar; and Holton, G., The Advancement of Science, and its Burdens, New York, 1986, 57–76.Google Scholar
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54 Letter from Einstein, to Schrödinger, Erwin, 19 06 1935Google Scholar. Einstein Archives, Box 28, #22–047: ‘Der talmudische Philosoph aber pfeift auf die “Wirklichkeit” als auf einen Popanz der Naivität und erklärt beide Auffassungen als nur der Ausdrucksweise nach vershieden.’ This letter is also quoted, with a different translation, in Fine, , op. cit. (10), 36.Google Scholar
65 Einstein, , op. cit. (49), 226Google Scholar. Both Gerald Holton and Arthur Fine have noted that the title of this essay has been poorly translated: the original ‘Motiv des Forschens’ stands closer to ‘Motives for research’ than to the official translation as ‘Principles of research’. Einstein's use of the word ‘motives’ enhances the notion that he perceived science as a very personal endeavour. See Fine, , op. cit. (10), 109.Google Scholar
I do not mean to imply any sort of social or group agreement or solidarity by the term ‘unified’. Rather, ‘unified’ for Einstein meant that the various principles are themselves mutually woven together into a single coherent Weltbild. This unification was a very private endeavour. My thanks to Rich Kremer for pointing out this possible misinterpretation.
69 Werner Heisenberg, interview conducted by Kuhn, Thomas S., 30 11 1962, p. 14Google Scholar of transcript; copies in AHQP-AIP.
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77 Letter from Einstein, to Hubert, David, 24 05 1918Google Scholar. Einstein Archives, Box 15, #13–125. ‘Es imponiert mir, dass man diese Dinge von so allgemeinem Standpunkt übersehen kann.’.
81 See Serway, R., Moses, C. and Moyer, C., Modem Physics, New York, 1989, 94Google Scholar. In this text, the limit expression is given for n → ∞, instead of h → 0 as I have written. The choice of variables here evinces the difference between the two types of specific limiting conditions, i.e. allowing h (Planck's constant) to tend to zero involves the assignment of certain values to theoretical constants, whereas n (principal quantum number) → ∞ is an example of the restriction to certain limiting domains of application. Either way, the use of the mathematical limit notation seems to me to be the best way of expressing the asymptotic agreement requirement of Bohr's correspondence principle.
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89 Letter from Einstein, to Hoe, Henry Allen, 28 11 1954Google Scholar, Einstein Archives, Box 6, #6–056. Notes between Paul Ehrenfest and Einstein (undated, probably from the fifth Solvay conference, 1927) similarly reveal Einstein's constant awareness of ‘future development’. Ehrenfest wrote to Einstein ‘Don't laugh!’ (‘Lache nicht!’), to which Einstein replied, ‘I laugh only at the naiveté [presumably of the proponents of quantum mechanics, the subject of the conference]. Who knows who will be laughing in the coming years.’ (‘Ich lache nur über die Naivotät. Wer weiss wer in einigen Jahren lacht.’) Einstein Archives, Box 11, #10–153.
91 See, e.g., Heisenberg, W., The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory, New York, 1930, 65.Google Scholar
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94 Letter from Einstein, to Schrödinger, , 19 06 1935Google Scholar. Einstein Archives, Box 28, #22–047. Portions of this letter are translated and reprinted in Fine, , op. cit. (10), 35–6Google Scholar, from which the above text is quoted. Yet where Fine supplies ‘paper’, Einstein's actual referent is ‘little treatise’ [‘kleine Abhandlung’]. The adjective ‘little’ here might simply refer to the brevity of the EPR paper (four pages); but it could also mean ‘petty’, thereby adding weight to Einstein's derision of the EPR paper's ‘smothering formalism’.
101 Bohr repeatedly remarked upon this aspect of quantum mechanics, describing, e.g., ‘the extent to which renunciation of the visualization of atomic phenomena is imposed on us’, and ‘emphasiz[ing] how far, in quantum theory, we are beyond the reach of pictorial visualization’ (Bohr, , op. cit. (70), 222, 232Google Scholar). See Miller, , op. cit. (18)Google Scholar, especially for the differences between Anschauung and Anschaulichkeit in quantum theory: ‘in the atomic domain visualization and visualizability are mutually exclusive… [whereas] in classical physics visualization and visualizability are synonymous’. Miller, , op. cit. (18), 154.Google Scholar
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109 Interview with Niels Bohr, conducted by Kuhn, Thomas S., Petersen, Aage and Rüdinger, Eric, 17 11 1962, p. 11Google Scholar of transcript; copies in AHQP-AIP.
110 A recent issue of Science In Context (1991), 4, 2Google Scholar, focuses on the somewhat problematic term ‘style’ as an explanatory tool in history of science. The collected articles debate the appropriateness of isolating various national, scholastic, and individual styles. (Cf. especially Anna Wessely's criticism of the use of ‘style’, in Wessely, A., ‘Transposing “style” from the history of art to the history of science’, Science In Context (1991), 4, 265–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar.) To be helpful, descriptions of individuals' personal approaches to science in terms of ‘style’ must reflect their personal context: scientists' styles of work cannot be disembodied from their emotional commitments and motivations.
111 Buchwald, J., ‘Essay review of Energy and Empire’, BJHS (1991), 24, 87CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The fractal imagery testifies to the robustness of ‘personality’ as a historiographical tool. Its explanatory power derives from the close-knit coherence of an individual's pre-scientific and scientific activity. Whereas ‘genius’ was hoisted by older generations as a means of black-boxing the roots of an individual's scientific activity, investigations of ‘personal context’ open the black-box a little to reveal a constrained system of repeated patterns.
112 Ian Hacking, Peter Galison and Timothy Lenoir object to such theory-dominated accounts of science, and discuss the experimental and technological presuppositions of observations. Cf. Hacking, I., Representing and Intervening, New York, 1983CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Galison, P., How Experiments End, Chicago, 1987Google Scholar; and Lenoir, T., ‘Practice, reason, context: the dialogue between theory and experiment’, Science In Context (1988), 2, 3–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The present paper's emphasis upon theory stems from the nature of the Einstein–Bohr debate: both disputants agreed that quantum mechanics was more or less empirically corroborated.
114 Rosenberg, C., ‘Woods or trees? Ideas and actors in the history of science’, Isis (1988), 79, 567–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Susan Krieger, a sociologist, has remarked that ‘individuality is theoretically unpopular’ in the social sciences as a whole, and argues for more explicit consideration to be paid to the researcher's individuality as well as to the individuality of the people studied. Like Rosenberg, she does not advocate study of the self to the exclusion of social and cultural contexts, but none the less encourages examination of aspects of individual personality and perspectives. Krieger, S., Social Science & The Self, New Brunswick, 1991, 43–5.Google Scholar
116 A compelling historical portrait of this sort of fundamental person-hood is given by McCormmach, R., Night Thoughts of a Classical Physicist, Cambridge, Mass., 1982.Google Scholar
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