Physics in Manchester and Vienna before WWI: Modern Ideas, Culture, and Place

4 Apr 2012
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

470 Stephens Hall

Event Type

Josh Roebke
OHST Visiting Scholar

In the summer of 1908, after he received a certificate in engineering from the Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Ludwig Wittgenstein went to the Victoria University of Manchester where he flew kites and studied aeronautics. During the years Wittgenstein spent in Manchester and Cambridge before WWI, between summers at home in his native Vienna, physicists established much of what is now called Modern Physics while they were working in these same locales. Nuclei, quanta, causality, duality, indeterminism, fluctuations, atomic models, and mental pictures were subjects that already concerned Ernest Rutherford, Franz Exner, Egon von Schweidler, Niels Bohr, and many other physicists. A few of these same ideas, which are more often associated with Germany after the war, also informed Wittgenstein’s switch to philosophy and his design of the Tractatus. I will speak briefly about this coincidence of time, place, and ideas. I will also ask whether there is anything more than chance between these links.

This event is sponsored by CSTMS.
Additional sponsorship comes from:  Office for the History of Science and Technology