La increíble y triste historia de E.C.G. Stueckelberg

Me entero, también a través de Juan de Mairena, de la increíble historia de este desconocido físico suizo:

–With his student, Andre Petermann, he invented 1951 the renormalization group, which is now essential to the construction of grand unified theories, and for which Kenneth Wilson later won a physics Nobel Prize.

–He predicted the first of the hundreds of subatomic particles discovered shortly before and after the war (World War II – the pion), but did not publish the idea after Pauli told him it was ridiculous. Later, the Japanese physicist Hideki Yukawa received a Nobel Prize for this idea.

–He pointed out in 1941 that pair production could be described classically by considering positrons as electrons running backwards in time.

–He illustrated these concepts with graphs of space-time trajectories similar to the diagrams Feynman began drawing in the summer of 1947.

Y finalmente, para redondear la desgracia (pero ¿qué se podía esperar después de lo anterior?):

When he became older, Stueckelberg was increasingly mentally disordered. He had a dog which attended his lectures, and when Stueckelberg ran into difficulties performing his calculations on the blackboard, he began to discuss the subject with his dog. He was treated later with electroshocks, which was a very popular method in psychiatry at that time. It was a very sad story.

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10 respuestas a La increíble y triste historia de E.C.G. Stueckelberg

  1. PETERMANN Andre dijo:

    To be quite exact, I was not a student of Stueckelberg, but a recently graduate mathematician working on direct products of generalized functions and the space in which they can be defined. Having such a problem with his student T. A. Green in th work they were doing in S-matrix theory, Stueckelberg asked me whether I was interested to be working at the Atomic Swiss Comission, in order to make a clean mathematical study of renormalization. I took the job and Stueckelberg became my boss more than my professor, and also a friend. I worked there during three years, leaving to go to Niels Bohr in Copenhagen.

  2. pseudopodo dijo:

    Dear Mr. Petermann:

    I’m a little bit shocked by your answer: I did not imagine that my post could be read by one of the main characters of the story!
    Could you, if you please, tell us more on Stueckelberg? I have found very little information on him. This blog is at your disposal via the comments, or if you prefer, you can write me at pseudopodo at gmail dot com

    Best regards.

  3. Richard Bentley dijo:

    I was the person who sent you an email some time ago regarding a physicist who called Feynman after he won the Nobel prize to ask him if he would now give Stueckelberg’s notes back. I was incorrect in the identification. My understanding now is that it was Sidney Coleman.

  4. Pierre LECOMTE dijo:

    I attended Stueckelberg’s courses in Geneva during the mid sixties. His virtuosity at the blackboard was often overwelming and much homework was necessary afterwards to keep up, but it was a joy to go to him with questions: he was infinitely patient and kind; his mind was amazingly clear and rigorous when dealing with scientific problems; the notation he used was the most rigorous I encountered.

    To me, he ranks among the most brilliant people I have met during forty years in particle physics, and I have met quite a few.

    If talking to his teckel was a sign of mental disturbance as mentioned in one of the above messages, then several of us were severely disturbed too: this dog attended the courses and had among us the reputation to understand tensorial calculus because he barked whenever Stueckelberg made a mistake (sadly, this was not quite true: Stueckelberg’s hesitation triggered the dog).

    This dog had an other characteristic which endeared it to us but made Stueckelberg impopular with the janitors and may have contributed to a reputation of excentricity: The lessons were in principle interrupted in the middle by a 15mn break but Stueckelberg got sometimes too absorbed at the blackboard and the dog answered the call of nature in the classroom, at which point we got an extended break.

    One suggestion: we have talked ad nauseam of the Higgs mechanism; it would be decent to give Stueckelberg some public recognition at least in that respect.

  5. pseudopodo dijo:

    Thank you for sharing your memories of Stueckelberg with us, Mr.Lecomte.

    The picture that emerges is very interesting; it will be great if his real height as a physicist will be recognized. You (and anybody with something to remember) have this blog at your disposal.

  6. Andre Petermann dijo:

    Hello,
    Please tell me if you got my comment. I have here problem with the server.
    thank you. A.Petermann

    • 12344 dijo:

      My name is Karin Petermann.
      André PETERMANN- my beloved father – died on 21st of August, 2011 in Lausanne. He was going to have 90 years the 27th of September, 2011. I just wanted to let you know – I admired him so much.

  7. pseudópodo dijo:

    I’m very sorry, Ms. Petermann… please accept my condolences.

    After the last comment of your father, above, I received this e-mail from him:

    There is definitely impossible to send comments on your blog on Stueckelberg. In the last 24 hours, I sent three times the same comment and never reached your blog. So, if it is your desire, I may try to reach you by e-mail, and send to you a short, but first hand history since the time I met him at a seminar of Heisenberg in Zürich during World War II.(December 1944). Please tell me if you are still interested.

    I replied that I would be happy to receive his history by e-mail and post it, but received no answer… It is a pity now we probably will never read it.

    Thank you for let us know.

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