Werner Heisenberg Biography

Werner Heisenberg was a Nobel Prize winning German scientist who propounded the Uncertainty Principle. To know more about his childhood, profile, career and timeline read on

Quick Facts

Nick Name: Werner Heisenberg

Birthday: December 5, 1901

Nationality: German

Famous: Quotes By Werner Heisenberg Physicists

Also Known As: Werner Karl Heisenberg

Sun Sign: Sagittarius

Died At Age: 74

Born in: Würzburg

Famous as: Physicist

Spouse/Ex-: Elisabeth Heisenberg

father: August Heisenberg

mother: Annie Wecklein

siblings: Erwin Heisenberg

children: Barbara Heisenberg, Christine Heisenberg, Jochen Heisenberg, Maria Heisenberg, Martin Heisenberg, Verena Heisenberg, Wolfgang Heisenberg

religion: Lutheranism

Died on: February 1, 1976

place of death: Munich

Personality: ENTP

More Facts

education: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, University of Göttingen

Hobbies: Music

awards: 1932 - Nobel Prize in Physics
1933 - Max Planck Medal

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Werner Heisenberg was a German scientist and philosopher who was influential in the research of quantum mechanics in the mid-1900s. His work overlapped with the controversial political history of 20th-century Germany; his substantial theories in physics were published in the 1920s and 1930s. During the WWII he made important contribution in the development of nuclear reactor and he was also the head of nuclear research during the Nazi period. He was instrumental in rebuilding the scientific community in West Germany after the war. He proposed a model of atomic nucleus which consisted of protons the positively charged particles and some particles which possessed no charge or the neutrons. His discovery earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics. Other than his work on atomic nucleus he also made significant contribution in the fields of ferromagnetism and cosmic radiation. Heisenberg devoted a large portion of his life to teaching as he held important teaching positions at the universities of Copenhagen, Berlin, Leipzig and Munich. He worked closely with the leading German scientists of his generation including Niels Bohr and Max Born, and he advised doctoral students that would go on to contribute significant findings to the fields of physical science. His powerful reputation as a researcher and academic enabled him to lecture widely across Germany and abroad, spreading his theories around the world

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Werner Heisenberg
Childhood & Early Life
  • Heisenberg was born on December 5, 1901, in Würzburg, Germany. His father was a professor of medieval and Greek studies.
  • His brother Erwin was one year older and was a constant source of competition. Erwin grew up to become a chemist.
  • He studied physics under Max Born at the ‘University of Munich’, receiving his doctorate in 1923. The physicist Niels Bohr was also very influential in Werner’s career, under whom the latter learnt the nuances of atomic physics.
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  • After completing his doctorate, he went to research with his hero Niels Bohr in 1925. Their work at the ‘University of Copenhagen’ resulted in one of Heisenberg's first important papers.
  • He became a professor at the ‘University of Leipzig’ in 1927 and began teaching doctoral students. His program was highly sought after and resulted in dozens of important scientific alumni.
  • His teaching often afforded him the opportunity to travel and lecture outside of Germany. He gave lectures in Japan, India, and the United States in 1929.
  • His work creating a neutron-proton model of the nucleus was published in three significant papers. He was honored with the Nobel Prize in 1932 for his discovery.
  • When Hitler assumed control of Germany in 1933, Heisenberg was criticized by the SS for supporting Jewish scientists. He was threatened to be sent to a concentration camp despite his unwavering support for Germany.
  • In 1941, he left Leipzig to teach at the ‘University of Berlin’. He was named director of the important ‘Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics’.
  • During World War II, Heisenberg served in various leadership roles researching the development of the nuclear bomb. He was captured on May 3, 1945 by Allied forces, four days before the German surrender.
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  • After the war, he was named director of the ‘Max Planck Institute for Physics’. He served in that position from 1948 to 1970.
  • He was elected president of the ‘Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’ in 1953. The foundation worked to bring foreign scientists to Germany for work.
  • Invited by many prestigious colleges around the world, he continued giving guest lectures. His 1955-56 ‘Gifford Lectures’ at the ‘University of Saint Andrews’ were published in a collection.
Major Works
  • His paper on quantum mechanics in 1925 was a major scientific breakthrough and led to developments in matrix mechanics. He worked with the Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli and the two became close friends.
  • He developed the uncertainty principle in 1927 while researching at the ‘University of Copenhagen’. This theory established the inverse relationship between the precise position of a particle and its momentum which became a fundamental principle in further physics research.
  • James Chadwick discovered the neutron in 1932, leading to Heisenberg's neutron-proton model in the same year. His three papers on the topic were monumental in the field of quantum physics.
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Awards & Achievements
  • He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932 for his neutron-proton model and theory of quantum mechanics. His quantum theory resulted in the important discovery of allotropic forms of hydrogen.
  • In 1933, he won the ‘Max Planck Medal’ of the ‘German Physical Society’. The organization is the largest association for physicists in the world.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • He met Elisabeth Schumacher at a music recital in January 1937 and they were married four months later. The couple enjoyed classical music and Heisenberg was experienced as a pianist.
  • The couple had seven children over thirteen years, including twins in January 1938. Their son Jochen went on to study physics and teach at the ‘University of New Hampshire’.
  • Despite his devotion to science, he was a practicing Lutheran for his entire life. He gave many lectures about science and religion over the course of his career.
  • He suffered from cancer of the gall bladder and kidneys and died on April 1, 1976. He is buried in the famous ‘Munich Waldfriedhof’ cemetery.
  • This famous personality’s grave stone is inscribed with the words "He lies here, somewhere." This is a joke about his famous Uncertainty Principle.

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How To Cite

Article Title
- Werner Heisenberg Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- September 25, 2017

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