abstract-hartz-freire – Niels Bohr Archive

Thiago Hartz and Olival Freire Jr., Federal University of Bahia, Brazil
Uses and appropriations of Niels Bohr's ideas about quantum field measurements (1935‒1965)

Niels Bohr and Léon Rosenfeld published in 1933 a renowned article showing the consistency of the quantum theory of the electromagnetic field. This article was largely analyzed in the history of science literature; however, this literature broadly fails in noticing the existence, between 1935 and 1965, of many debates occurred outside Copenhagen which were completely influenced by Bohr's 1933 ideas.

In our work, we analyze two of these debates. The first one, happened in 1938, was triggered by Matvei Bronstein and Jacques Solomon's attempts to extend Bohr's ideas to the gravitation field case. The resistance they found was related to the legitimacy of Bohr's approach to quantum field theory. On the other hand, the second debate, happened in 1962, at a moment when Bohr's ideas were already firmly established, was a dispute about the appropriation of Bohr's ideas by Bryce DeWitt and other young physicists, and Rosenfeld's reaction in defense of Bohr's original purposes. In these debates, there were uses, defenses, criticisms, and appropriations of Bohr's ideas, and there was no general agreement. Thus, controversies were engendered. In describing and analyzing them we are interested in outlining the large influence of Bohr's ideas in the history of quantum field theory.