Erwin Schrödinger was the Austrian-born physicist who published, in 1926, a series of papers that formed the basis of quantum mechanics. He based his investigations into this area on the work already done by Louis de Broglie, who proposed in 1924 that particles (such as electrons) have a dual nature and in certain conditions will behave as waves. Schrödinger argued that if particles can behave as waves, then their behaviour should be described using a linear, second-order differential equation (in common with sound waves and electromagnetic waves). In 1926, Schrödinger published his celebrated wave equation which can be regarded as the counterpart in the quantum world of Newton's second law of motion. The time-independent Schrödinger equation described the behaviour of a quantum through its wave function a complex quantity that cannot be observed directly (Schrödinger was never happy with what became the standard physical interpretation of the quantity, given by Max Born). Schrödinger successfully applied the equation to the hydrogen atom, correctly predicting its energy levels. Soon afterwards, the English physicist Paul Dirac developed a more complete theory of quantum mechanics and was awarded, with Schrödinger, the 1933 Nobel Prize for Physics.
In addition to his expertise in quantum physics, Schrödinger was knowledgeable about many other subjects, notably biology. In 1944, he published the extraordinarily influential text What is Life?, which stimulated interest in fundamental biology in many young scientists, notably Francis Crick (co-discover of the structure of DNA).
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