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Solvay Conference

Solvay Conference

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The International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry, located in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, were founded by the Belgian
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 industrialist
Industry
Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

 Ernest Solvay
Ernest Solvay
Ernest Gaston Joseph Solvay was a Belgian chemist, industrialist and philanthropist.Born at Rebecq, he was prevented by acute pleurisy from going to university...

 in 1912, following the historic invitation-only 1911 Conseil Solvay, the turning point in world physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

. The Institutes coordinate conferences, workshops, seminars, and colloquia.

Following the initial success of 1911, the Solvay Conferences (Conseils Solvay) have been devoted to outstanding preeminent open problems in both physics and chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

. The usual schedule is every three years, but there have been larger gaps.

First conference


Hendrik A. Lorentz
Hendrik Lorentz
Hendrik Antoon Lorentz was a Dutch physicist who shared the 1902 Nobel Prize in Physics with Pieter Zeeman for the discovery and theoretical explanation of the Zeeman effect...

 was chairman of the first Solvay Conference held in Brussels in the autumn of 1911. The subject was Radiation and the Quanta. This conference looked at the problems of having two approaches, namely the classical physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 and quantum theory
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

. Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 was the second youngest physicist present (the youngest one was Lindemann
Frederick Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell
Frederick Alexander Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell FRS PC CH was an English physicist who was an influential scientific adviser to the British government, particularly Winston Churchill...

). Other members of the Solvay Congress included such luminaries as Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Henri Poincaré
Henri Poincaré
Jules Henri Poincaré was a French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and a philosopher of science...

. (See image for attendee list.)

Fifth conference


Perhaps the most famous conference was the October 1927 Fifth Solvay International Conference on Electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s and Photon
Photon
In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

s
, where the world's most notable physicists met to discuss the newly formulated quantum theory. The leading figures were Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

. Einstein, disenchanted with Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
Werner Karl Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist who made foundational contributions to quantum mechanics and is best known for asserting the uncertainty principle of quantum theory...

's "Uncertainty Principle
Uncertainty principle
In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, can be simultaneously known...

," remarked "God does not play dice." Bohr replied, "Einstein, stop telling God what to do." (See Bohr-Einstein debates
Bohr-Einstein debates
The Bohr–Einstein debates were a series of public disputes about quantum mechanics between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, who were two of its founders. Their debates are remembered because of their importance to the philosophy of science. An account of them has been written by Bohr in an article...

.) Seventeen of the twenty-nine attendees were or became Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 winners, including Marie Curie
Marie Curie
Marie Skłodowska-Curie was a physicist and chemist famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes—in physics and chemistry...

, who alone among them, had won Nobel Prizes in two separate scientific disciplines.

This conference was also the culmination of the struggle between Einstein and the Scientific Realists
Scientific realism
Scientific realism is, at the most general level, the view that the world described by science is the real world, as it is, independent of what we might take it to be...

, who wanted strict rules of scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

 as laid out by Charles Peirce and Karl Popper
Karl Popper
Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH FRS FBA was an Austro-British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics...

, versus Bohr and the Instrumentalist
Instrumentalism
In the philosophy of science, instrumentalism is the view that a scientific theory is a useful instrument in understanding the world. A concept or theory should be evaluated by how effectively it explains and predicts phenomena, as opposed to how accurately it describes objective...

s, who wanted looser rules based on outcomes. Starting at this point, the instrumentalists won, instrumentalism having been seen as the norm ever since although the debate has been actively continued by the likes of Alan Musgrave
Alan Musgrave
Alan Musgrave is an English born New Zealand philosopher. Musgrave was educated at the London School of Economics with a BA Honours Philosophy and Economics 1961. Sir Karl Popper supervised Musgrave's PhD which was completed in 1969. Musgrave worked as Popper's Research Assistant initially then...

.
A. Piccard
Auguste Piccard
Auguste Antoine Piccard was a Swiss physicist, inventor and explorer.-Biography:Piccard and his twin brother Jean Felix were born in Basel, Switzerland...

, E. Henriot, P. Ehrenfest
Paul Ehrenfest
Paul Ehrenfest was an Austrian and Dutch physicist, who made major contributions to the field of statistical mechanics and its relations with quantum mechanics, including the theory of phase transition and the Ehrenfest theorem.- Biography :Paul Ehrenfest was born and grew up in Vienna in a Jewish...

, E. Herzen, Th. De Donder
Théophile de Donder
Théophile Ernest de Donder was a Belgian mathematician and physicist famous for his 1923 work in developing correlations between the Newtonian concept of chemical affinity and the Gibbsian concept of free energy.-Education:...

, E. Schrödinger
Erwin Schrödinger
Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger was an Austrian physicist and theoretical biologist who was one of the fathers of quantum mechanics, and is famed for a number of important contributions to physics, especially the Schrödinger equation, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933...

, J.E. Verschaffelt
Jules-Émile Verschaffelt
' was a Belgian physicist. He worked at Kamerlingh Onnes’s laboratory in Leiden from 1894 to 1906 and once again from 1914 to 1923. From 1906 to 1914 he worked at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and from 1923 to 1940 at the Ghent University.- External links :*...

, W. Pauli
Wolfgang Pauli
Wolfgang Ernst Pauli was an Austrian theoretical physicist and one of the pioneers of quantum physics. In 1945, after being nominated by Albert Einstein, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his "decisive contribution through his discovery of a new law of Nature, the exclusion principle or...

, W. Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
Werner Karl Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist who made foundational contributions to quantum mechanics and is best known for asserting the uncertainty principle of quantum theory...

, R.H. Fowler, L. Brillouin
Léon Brillouin
Léon Nicolas Brillouin was a French physicist. He made contributions to quantum mechanics, radio wave propagation in the atmosphere, solid state physics, and information theory.-Early life:...

;

P. Debye
Peter Debye
Peter Joseph William Debye FRS was a Dutch physicist and physical chemist, and Nobel laureate in Chemistry.-Early life:...

, M. Knudsen
Martin Knudsen
This article is about the Danish physicist Martin Knudsen. For the Norwegian footballer, see Martin Knudsen .Martin Hans Christian Knudsen was a Danish physicist who taught and conducted research at the Technical University of DenmarkHe is primarily known for his study of molecular gas flow and the...

, W.L. Bragg
William Lawrence Bragg
Sir William Lawrence Bragg CH OBE MC FRS was an Australian-born British physicist and X-ray crystallographer, discoverer of the Bragg law of X-ray diffraction, which is basic for the determination of crystal structure. He was joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915. He was knighted...

, H.A. Kramers
Hendrik Anthony Kramers
Hendrik Anthony "Hans" Kramers was a Dutch physicist.-Background and education:...

, P.A.M. Dirac
Paul Dirac
Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, OM, FRS was an English theoretical physicist who made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics...

, A.H. Compton
Arthur Compton
Arthur Holly Compton was an American physicist and Nobel laureate in physics for his discovery of the Compton effect. He served as Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis from 1945 to 1953.-Early years:...

, L. de Broglie
Louis, 7th duc de Broglie
Louis-Victor-Pierre-Raymond, 7th duc de Broglie, FRS was a French physicist and a Nobel laureate in the year 1929. He was the sixteenth member elected to occupy seat 1 of the Académie française in 1944, and served as Perpetual Secretary of the Académie des sciences, France.-Biography :Louis de...

, M. Born
Max Born
Max Born was a German-born physicist and mathematician who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics. He also made contributions to solid-state physics and optics and supervised the work of a number of notable physicists in the 1920s and 30s...

, N. Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

;

I. Langmuir
Irving Langmuir
Irving Langmuir was an American chemist and physicist. His most noted publication was the famous 1919 article "The Arrangement of Electrons in Atoms and Molecules" in which, building on Gilbert N. Lewis's cubical atom theory and Walther Kossel's chemical bonding theory, he outlined his...

, M. Planck
Max Planck
Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, ForMemRS, was a German physicist who actualized the quantum physics, initiating a revolution in natural science and philosophy. He is regarded as the founder of the quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.-Life and career:Planck came...

, M. Curie
Marie Curie
Marie Skłodowska-Curie was a physicist and chemist famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes—in physics and chemistry...

, H.A. Lorentz
Hendrik Lorentz
Hendrik Antoon Lorentz was a Dutch physicist who shared the 1902 Nobel Prize in Physics with Pieter Zeeman for the discovery and theoretical explanation of the Zeeman effect...

, A. Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

, P. Langevin
Paul Langevin
Paul Langevin was a prominent French physicist who developed Langevin dynamics and the Langevin equation. He was one of the founders of the Comité de vigilance des intellectuels antifascistes, an antifascist organization created in the wake of the 6 February 1934 far right riots...

, Ch. E. Guye, C.T.R. Wilson
Charles Thomson Rees Wilson
Charles Thomson Rees Wilson, CH, FRS was a Scottish physicist and meteorologist who received the Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the cloud chamber.- Biography:...

, O.W. Richardson
Owen Willans Richardson
Sir Owen Willans Richardson, FRS was a British physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1928 for his work on thermionic emission, which led to Richardson's Law.-Biography:...


Fifth conference participants, 1927. Institut International de Physique Solvay in Leopold Park
Leopold Park
Parc Léopold or Leopoldspark is a public park located within the Leopold Quarter of Brussels, adjacent to the Paul-Henri Spaak building, the seat of the European Parliament....

.

Solvay conferences on physics

No Year Title Translation Chair
1 1911 La théorie du rayonnement et les quanta The theory of radiation and quanta Hendrik Lorentz
Hendrik Lorentz
Hendrik Antoon Lorentz was a Dutch physicist who shared the 1902 Nobel Prize in Physics with Pieter Zeeman for the discovery and theoretical explanation of the Zeeman effect...

 (Leiden)
2 1913 La structure de la matière The structure of matter
3 1921 Atomes et électrons Atoms and electrons
4 1924 Conductibilité électrique des métaux et problèmes connexes Electric conductivity of metals and related problems
5 1927 Electrons et photons Electrons and photons
6 1930 Le magnétisme Magnetism Paul Langevin
Paul Langevin
Paul Langevin was a prominent French physicist who developed Langevin dynamics and the Langevin equation. He was one of the founders of the Comité de vigilance des intellectuels antifascistes, an antifascist organization created in the wake of the 6 February 1934 far right riots...

 (Paris)
7 1933 Structure et propriétés des noyaux atomiques Structure & properties of the atomic nucleus
8 1948 Les particules élémentaires Elementary particles William Lawrence Bragg
William Lawrence Bragg
Sir William Lawrence Bragg CH OBE MC FRS was an Australian-born British physicist and X-ray crystallographer, discoverer of the Bragg law of X-ray diffraction, which is basic for the determination of crystal structure. He was joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915. He was knighted...

 (Cambridge)
9 1951 L'état solide The solid state
10 1954 Les électrons dans les métaux Electrons in metals
11 1958 La structure et l'évolution de l'univers The structure and evolution of the universe
12 1961 La théorie quantique des champs Quantum field theory
13 1964 The Structure and Evolution of Galaxies J. Robert Oppenheimer (Princeton)
14 1967 Fundamental Problems in Elementary Particle Physics R. Møller (Copenhagen)
15 1970 Symmetry Properties of Nuclei Edoardo Amaldi
Edoardo Amaldi
Edoardo Amaldi was an Italian physicist.He was born in Carpaneto Piacentino, son of Ugo Amaldi, professor of mathematics at the University of Padua, and Luisa Basini....

 (Rome)
16 1973 Astrophysics and Gravitation
17 1978 Order and Fluctuations in Equilibrium and Nonequilibrium Statistical Mechanics Léon van Hove
Léon Van Hove
Léon Van Hove was a Belgian physicist and a former Director General of CERN. He developed a scientific career spanning mathematics, solid state physics, elementary particle and nuclear physics to cosmology.-Biography:...

 (CERN)
18 1982 Higher Energy Physics
19 1987 Surface Science
Surface science
Surface science is the study of physical and chemical phenomena that occur at the interface of two phases, including solid–liquid interfaces, solid–gas interfaces, solid–vacuum interfaces, and liquid-gas interfaces. It includes the fields of surface chemistry and surface physics. Some related...

F. W. de Wette (Austin)
20 1991 Quantum Optics
Quantum optics
Quantum optics is a field of research in physics, dealing with the application of quantum mechanics to phenomena involving light and its interactions with matter.- History of quantum optics :...

Paul Mandel (Brussels)
21 1998 Dynamical Systems and Irreversibility Ioannis Antoniou (Brussels)
22 2001 The Physics of Communication
23 2005 The Quantum Structure of Space and Time David Gross
David Gross
David Jonathan Gross is an American particle physicist and string theorist. Along with Frank Wilczek and David Politzer, he was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of asymptotic freedom. He is currently the director and holder of the Frederick W...

 (Santa Barbara)
24 2008 Quantum Theory of Condensed Matter Bertrand Halperin
Bertrand Halperin
Bertrand I. Halperin is the Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at the physics department of Harvard University.He grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He attended Harvard University , and did his graduate work at Berkeley with John J. Hopfield .In the 1970s, he, together with...

 (Harvard)
25 2011 The theory of the quantum world David Gross
David Gross
David Jonathan Gross is an American particle physicist and string theorist. Along with Frank Wilczek and David Politzer, he was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of asymptotic freedom. He is currently the director and holder of the Frederick W...


Solvay conferences on chemistry

No Year Title Translation Chair
1 1922 Cinq Questions d'Actualité Five topical questions William Pope
William Pope
William Pope may refer to:* William Henry Pope , Texas state senator* William Henry Pope * William Hayes Pope , U.S...

 (Cambridge)
2 1925 Structure et Activité Chimique Structure and Chemical Activity
3 1928 Questions d'Actualité Topical Questions
4 1931 Constitution et Configuration des Molécules Organiques Constitution and Configuration of Organic Molecules
5 1934 L'Oxygène, ses réactions chimiques et biologiques Oxygen, and its chemical and biological reactions.
6 1937 Les vitamines et les Hormones Vitamins and Hormones Frédéric Swarts
Frédéric Swarts
Frédéric Swarts was a Belgian chemist who prepared the first chlorofluorocarbon, CF2Cl2 as well as several other related compounds. He was a professor in the civil engineering at the University of Ghent...

 (Ghent)
7 1947 Les Isotopes Isotopes Paul Karrer
Paul Karrer
Paul Karrer was a Swiss organic chemist best known for his research on vitamins. He and Walter Haworth won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1937.-Early years:...

 (Zurich)
8 1950 Le Mécanisme de l'Oxydation The mechanism of oxidation
9 1953 Les Protéines Proteins
10 1956 Quelques Problèmes de Chimie Minérale Some Problems of Inorganic Chemistry
11 1959 Les Nucléoprotéines Nucleoproteins Alfred Rene Ubbelohde (London)
12 1962 Transfert d'Energie dans les Gaz Energy transfer in gases
13 1965 Reactivity of the Photoexcited Organic Molecule
14 1969 Phase Transition
Phase transition
A phase transition is the transformation of a thermodynamic system from one phase or state of matter to another.A phase of a thermodynamic system and the states of matter have uniform physical properties....

s
15 1970 Electrostatic Interactions and Structure of Water
16 1976 Molecular Movements and Chemical Reactivity as conditioned by Membranes, Enzymes and other Molecules
17 1980 Aspects of Chemical Evolution
18 1983 Design and Synthesis of Organic Molecules Based on Molecular Recognition Ephraim Katchalski (Rehovot) & Vladimir Prelog
Vladimir Prelog
Vladimir Prelog FRS was a Croatian chemist and Nobel Prize winner in chemistry. Prelog lived and worked in Prague, Zagreb and Zürich during his lifetime.-Biography:...

 (Zurich)
19 1987 Surface Science F. W. de Wette (Austin)
20 1995 Chemical Reactions and their Control on the Femtosecond Time Scale Pierre Gaspard (Brussels)
21 2007 From Noncovalent Assemblies to Molecular Machines Jean-Pierre Sauvage (Strasbourg)
22 2010 Quantum Effects in Chemistry and Biology Graham Fleming
Graham Fleming
Graham R. Fleming is an American chemist, currently serving as professor, director of the Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, and the vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Berkeley.-Career:...

(Berkeley)

External links