Childhood & Early Life
Louis de Broglie was born on August 15, 1892 to Victor, 5th Duc de Broglie and Pauline d’Armaille in Dieppe, Siene-Maritime. He had an elder brother, Maurice, who too went on to become a physicist.
De Broglie completed his preliminary studies from Lycee Janson of Sailly. Initially, he desired to make a career in humanities and as such, applied himself to literary studies, later acquiring a degree in history in 1910. He was, however, soon lured by science, so much so, that in 1913, he attained a degree in physics.
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In 1914, with the onset of World War I, he was conscripted into the military and offered his services in the development of radio communications. He was posted at Eiffel Tower, where he spent considerable time studying technical aspect of physics.
Post World War I, he resumed his studies of general physics. He began working with his brother, Maurice, in his lab. Maurice’s work involved X-Rays, and it was here that de Broglie got the idea of wave-particle duality.
In 1924, he submitted his thesis, Recherches sur la théorie des quanta (Research on the Theory of the Quanta) at the Faculty of Sciences at Paris University. Through it, he introduced his revolutionary theory of electron waves. He was awarded a doctorate degree.
His thesis presented a series of important findings that changed the way people perceived the physical phenomena on atomic scale. Popularly known as the de Broglie hypothesis today, his postulated that any moving particle or object has an associated wave. With this, he created a new field of physics, wave mechanics that unites the physics of energy and matter.
De Broglie's hypothesis was supported by Einstein and in 1927, electron diffraction experiments of Davisson and Germer confirmed that electrons have wave like properties.
After attaining his doctorate degree, he took up teaching position at the Sorbonne, where he served for two years. Meanwhile, he continued to publish original work.
In 1928, he was appointed to serve as the professor of theoretical physics at the then newly-founded Henri Poincare Institute in Paris. He served in the position until his retirement in 1962.
In 1933, he became a member of the Académie des sciences and served as the academy’s permanent secretary for mathematical science since 1942. Though he was offered to join Le Conseil de l'Union Catholique des Scientifiques Francais, he declined the same due to his atheist beliefs.
In October 1944, he was elected to the Académie française and was received by his brother Maurice. Subsequent year, he was appointed as the advisor to the French High Commission of Atomic Energy.
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Later in his career, he devoted himself to the study of the various extensions of wave mechanics. He published numerous notes and papers on the subject in addition to authoring twenty five books. In addition to scientific work, he penned about the philosophy of science, including the value of modern scientific discoveries.
His theory of wave mechanics was later refined by David Bohm in 1950s and has since been known as the De Broglie–Bohm theory.
Later in his life, he established a center for applied mechanics at the Henri Poincaré Institute, where research into optics, cybernetics, and atomic energy were carried out. Furthermore, he inspired the formation of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science and became an early member.
Awards & Achievements
In 1929, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research papers on the theory of electron waves. His revolutionary theory led to the creation of the new field of wave mechanics in physics. Same year, the Academei des Sciences bestowed him with the inaugural Henri Ponicare Medal.
In 1932, he was conferred with the Albert I of Monaco Prize.
In 1938, he received the Max Planck Medal. In the same year, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
In 1944, he was made Fellow of the Academie francaise and in 1953 was made Fellow of the Royal Society.
In 1952, UNESCO awarded him the inaugural Kalinga Prize for popularizing scientific knowledge amongst layman.
In 1956, he received the Gold Medal of the French National Scientific Research Centre.
In 1961, he received the title of the Knight of the Grand Cross in the French Legion d’honneur and is an Officer of the Order of Leopold in Belgium.
He has received honorary doctorates from various prestigious and established universities around the globe including the Universities of Warsaw, Bucharest, Athens, Laussane, Quebec and Brussels. Additionally, he is a member of eighteen foreign academies in Europe, India and United States.
Personal Life & Legacy
Broglie lived the life of a bachelor all through.
In 1960, after the death of his older brother, Maurice, he succeeded as the 7th duc de Broglie, as Maurice left without any heir.
He breathed his last on March 19, 1987 in Louveciennes, France. He was 94 years old. After his death, he was succeeded as Duke by a distant cousin, Victor-François, 8th duc de Broglie.