Wolfgang Pauli

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Pauli, Wolfgang

(vôlf`gäng pou`lē), 1900–1958, Austro-American physicist, b. Vienna. He studied first with A. Sommerfeld at Munich and then with Niels Bohr at Copenhagen. After lecturing (1923–28) at the Univ. of Hamburg, Pauli was appointed professor at the Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich, which became famous under his direction. In the United States he was a member (1935–36, 1940–46) of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. In 1946 he became a U.S. citizen. He divided his later years between Princeton and Zürich. He was awarded the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physics for his enunciation (1925) of the Pauli exclusion principleexclusion principle,
physical principle enunciated by Wolfgang Pauli in 1925 stating that no two electrons in an atom can occupy the same energy state simultaneously. The energy states, or levels, in an atom are described in the quantum theory by various values of four different
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, fundamental to quantum mechanics, according to which no two electrons in an atom may be in the same quantum state. It was later found that certain other particles also are governed by the principle. Among his many other achievements was the postulation of the existence of the neutrinoneutrino
[Ital.,=little neutral (particle)], elementary particle with no electric charge and a very small mass emitted during the decay of certain other particles. The neutrino was first postulated in 1930 by Wolfgang Pauli in order to maintain the law of conservation of energy
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 (1930), more than a quarter century before it was directly observed in 1956.

Pauli, Wolfgang


Born Apr. 25, 1900, in Vienna; died Dec. 15, 1958, in Zürich. Swiss theoretical physicist; author of classic works on quantum mechanics.

Pauli completed his university education in Munich in 1921. In 1921 and 1922 he was an assistant to M. Born in Göttingen, and in 1922 and 1923 an assistant to N. Bohr in Copenhagen. Pauli became a docent at the University of Hamburg in 1923 and a professor at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich in 1928. From 1940 to 1946 he was a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in the USA.

While still a student, Pauli published two works on the theory of gravitation, which were followed in 1921 by a monograph on the theory of relativity that has become a classic. His search for an explanation of the anomalous Zeeman effect led him to formulate in 1925 a very important principle of quantum mechanics —the Pauli exclusion principle. In subsequent works, Pauli generalized this principle. In 1927 he used it to explain the paramagnetism of alkali metals. In 1928 he showed how spin can be included in the general formalism of quantum mechanics. Later, in 1940, he proved that all particles with half-integral spin obey the exclusion principle.

Together with P. Jordan and W. Heisenberg, Pauli laid the foundations of relativistic quantum field theory in 1929; he subsequently took an active part in the development of the theory. While discussing the characteristics of β-decay, he posited the existence of the neutrino (1930–33). Pauli also wrote on the meson theory of nuclear forces. His other writings include a number of surveys on important problems of modern theoretical physics and articles on the history and philosophy of science. Pauli was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1945.


Collected Scientific Papers, vols. 1–2. New York, 1964.
Aufsätze und Vorträge über Physik und Erkenntnistheorie. Braunschweig, 1961.
In Russian translation:
Teoriia otnositel’nosti Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Obshchie printsipy volnovoi mekhaniki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Mezonnaia teoriia iadernykh sil. Moscow, 1947.
Reliativistskaia teoriia elementarnykh chastits. Moscow, 1947.


Fierz, M. “Wolfgang Pauli (1900–1958).” Nuclear Physics, 1959, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 1–5.
Teoreticheskaia fizika 20 veka. Moscow, 1962. (A collection devoted to Pauli, with a list of his works.)
Landau, L. “Wol’fgang Pauli.” Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk, 1959, vol. 68, issue 3, pp. 557–59.