Working with Bohr

Almost since I can remember, my ambition was to be a physicist. My parents had both studied physics and worked for a short time in the Cavendish Laboratory, and, although neither made a career in science, I was brought up knowing about physics. At both preparatory and secondary schools, however, my most inspiring teachers taught mathematics, and I left school with a maths scholarship to Cambridge and the ambition to work on quantum theory. That was in 1923, when Sommerfeld and others were still

Nevill Mott
Oct 19, 1986

Almost since I can remember, my ambition was to be a physicist. My parents had both studied physics and worked for a short time in the Cavendish Laboratory, and, although neither made a career in science, I was brought up knowing about physics. At both preparatory and secondary schools, however, my most inspiring teachers taught mathematics, and I left school with a maths scholarship to Cambridge and the ambition to work on quantum theory. That was in 1923, when Sommerfeld and others were still elaborating Niels Bohr's theory of orbits.

But in 1926, when I took my final examination-which included some questions on quantum theory-the "new" quantum mechanics of Heisenberg and Schrodinger appeared and everything was changed. Bohr's orbits were dead. Most of physics and all of chemistry were now open to the theorist, once he or she could understand the new theory.

But there was no one in Cambridge...