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This chapter provides a brief overview of the history of the development of quantum theory, with a critical focus on the antirealist tradition inaugurated by Niels Bohr. The distinction between “principle theories” and “constructive theories” is discussed, and it is noted that quantum mechanics is a “principle theory.” It is argued that quantum theory is amenable to a fully realist interpretation provided we let go of the demand that reality be classically picturable.
Our modern understanding of atoms, molecules, solids, atomic nuclei, and elementary particles is largely based on quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics grew in the mid-1920s out of two independent developments: the matrix mechanics of Werner and the wave mechanics of Erwin Schrödinger. For the most part this chapter follows the path of wave mechanics, which is more convenient for all but the simplest calculations. The general principles of the wave mechanical formulation of quantum mechanics are laid out and provide a basis for the discussion of spin, identical particles. and scattering processes. The general principles are supplemented with the canonical formalism to work out the Schrödinger equation for charged particles in a general electromagnetic field. The chapter ends with the unification of the approaches of wave and matrix mechanics by Paul Dirac, and a modern approach, known as Hilbert space, is briefly described.
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