Solvay Conference

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The International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry, located in Brussels, were founded by the Belgian industrialist Ernest Solvay in 1912, following the historic invitation-only 1911 Conseil Solvay, considered a turning point in the world of physics. The Institutes coordinate conferences, workshops, seminars, and colloquia.[1]

Following the initial success of 1911, the Solvay Conferences (Conseils Solvay) have been devoted to outstanding preeminent open problems in both physics and chemistry. The usual schedule is every three years, but there have been larger gaps.

Notable Solvay Conferences[edit]

First Conference[edit]

Hendrik A. Lorentz was chairman of the first Solvay Conference held in Brussels in the autumn of 1911. The subject was Radiation and the Quanta. This conference looked at the problems of having two approaches, namely the classical physics and quantum theory. Albert Einstein was the second youngest physicist present (the youngest one was Lindemann). Other members of the Solvay Congress included such luminaries as Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Henri Poincaré. (See image for attendee list.)

Third Conference[edit]

The first Solvay Conference following World War I was held in April 1921. Most German scientists were barred from attending. In protest at this action, Albert Einstein, himself a citizen and a vocal supporter of the infant Weimar Republic, declined his invitation to attend the conference where most of his countrymen were barred.

Fifth Conference[edit]

Perhaps the most famous conference was the October 1927 Fifth Solvay International Conference on Electrons and Photons, where the world's most notable physicists met to discuss the newly formulated quantum theory. The leading figures were Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Einstein, disenchanted with Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, remarked "God does not play dice". Bohr replied, "Einstein, stop telling God what to do". (See Bohr–Einstein debates.) 17 of the 29 attendees were or became Nobel Prize winners, including Marie Curie, who alone among them, had won Nobel Prizes in two separate scientific disciplines.[2]

This conference was also the culmination of the struggle between Einstein and the scientific realists, who wanted strict rules of scientific method as laid out by Charles Peirce and Karl Popper, versus Bohr and the instrumentalists, who wanted looser rules based on outcomes. Starting at this point, the instrumentalists won, instrumentalism having been seen as the norm ever since,[3] although the debate has been actively continued by the likes of Alan Musgrave.

Auguste PiccardÉmile Henriot (chemist)Paul EhrenfestÉdouard HerzenThéophile de DonderErwin SchrödingerJules-Émile VerschaffeltWolfgang PauliWerner HeisenbergR.H. FowlerLéon BrillouinPeter DebyeMartin KnudsenWilliam Lawrence BraggHendrik Anthony KramersPaul DiracArthur ComptonLouis, 7th duc de BroglieMax BornNiels BohrIrving LangmuirMax PlanckMarie CurieHendrik LorentzAlbert EinsteinPaul LangevinCharles Eugene GuyeCharles Thomson Rees WilsonOwen Willans RichardsonA. Piccard, E. Henriot, P. Ehrenfest, E. Herzen, Th. De Donder, E. Schrödinger, J.E. Verschaffelt, W. Pauli, W. Heisenberg, R.H. Fowler, L. Brillouin;P. Debye, M. Knudsen, W.L. Bragg, H.A. Kramers, P.A.M. Dirac, A.H. Compton, L. de Broglie, M. Born, N. Bohr;I. Langmuir, M. Planck, M. Curie, H.A. Lorentz, A. Einstein, P. Langevin, Ch. E. Guye, C.T.R. Wilson, O.W. Richardson Fifth conference participants, 1927. Institut International de Physique Solvay in Leopold Park.Image
A. Piccard, E. Henriot, P. Ehrenfest, E. Herzen, Th. de Donder, E. Schrödinger, J.E. Verschaffelt, W. Pauli, W. Heisenberg, R.H. Fowler, L. Brillouin;

P. Debye, M. Knudsen, W.L. Bragg, H.A. Kramers, P.A.M. Dirac, A.H. Compton, L. de Broglie, M. Born, N. Bohr;
I. Langmuir, M. Planck, M. Skłodowska-Curie, H.A. Lorentz, A. Einstein, P. Langevin, Ch.-E. Guye, C.T.R. Wilson, O.W. Richardson

Fifth conference participants, 1927. Institut International de Physique Solvay in Leopold Park.

Solvay Conferences on Physics[edit]

NoYearTitleTranslationChair
11911La théorie du rayonnement et les quantaThe theory of radiation and quantaHendrik Lorentz (Leiden)
21913La structure de la matièreThe structure of matter
31921Atomes et électronsAtoms and electrons
41924Conductibilité électrique des métaux et problèmes connexesElectric conductivity of metals and related problems
51927Electrons et photonsElectrons and photons
61930Le magnétismeMagnetismPaul Langevin (Paris)
71933Structure et propriétés des noyaux atomiquesStructure & properties of the atomic nucleus
81948Les particules élémentairesElementary particlesWilliam Lawrence Bragg (Cambridge)
91951L'état solideThe solid state
101954Les électrons dans les métauxElectrons in metals
111958La structure et l'évolution de l'universThe structure and evolution of the universe
121961La théorie quantique des champsQuantum field theory
131964The Structure and Evolution of GalaxiesJ. Robert Oppenheimer (Princeton)
141967Fundamental Problems in Elementary Particle PhysicsChristian Møller (Copenhagen)
151970Symmetry Properties of NucleiEdoardo Amaldi (Rome)
161973Astrophysics and Gravitation
171976Order and Fluctuations in Equilibrium and Nonequilibrium Statistical MechanicsLéon van Hove (CERN)
181984Higher Energy Physics
191987Surface ScienceF. W. de Wette (Austin)
201991Quantum OpticsPaul Mandel (Brussels)
211998Dynamical Systems and IrreversibilityIoannis Antoniou (Brussels)
222001The Physics of Communication
232005The Quantum Structure of Space and TimeDavid Gross (Santa Barbara)
242008Quantum Theory of Condensed MatterBertrand Halperin (Harvard)
252011The theory of the quantum worldDavid Gross

Conferences on Physics gallery[edit]

Solvay Conferences on Chemistry[edit]

NoYearTitleTranslationChair
11922Cinq Questions d'ActualitéFive topical questionsWilliam Jackson Pope (Cambridge)
21925Structure et Activité ChimiqueStructure and Chemical Activity
31928Questions d'ActualitéTopical Questions
41931Constitution et Configuration des Molécules OrganiquesConstitution and Configuration of Organic Molecules
51934L'Oxygène, ses réactions chimiques et biologiquesOxygen, and its chemical and biological reactions.
61937Les vitamines et les HormonesVitamins and HormonesFrédéric Swarts (Ghent)
71947Les IsotopesIsotopesPaul Karrer (Zurich)
81950Le Mécanisme de l'OxydationThe mechanism of oxidation
91953Les ProtéinesProteins
101956Quelques Problèmes de Chimie MinéraleSome Problems of Inorganic Chemistry
111959Les NucléoprotéinesNucleoproteinsAlfred Rene Ubbelohde (London)
121962Transfert d'Energie dans les GazEnergy transfer in gases
131965Reactivity of the Photoexcited Organic Molecule
141969Phase Transitions
151970Electrostatic Interactions and Structure of Water
161976Molecular Movements and Chemical Reactivity as conditioned by Membranes, Enzymes and other Molecules
171980Aspects of Chemical Evolution
181983Design and Synthesis of Organic Molecules Based on Molecular RecognitionEphraim Katchalski (Rehovot) & Vladimir Prelog (Zurich)
191987Surface ScienceF. W. de Wette (Austin)
201995Chemical Reactions and their Control on the Femtosecond Time ScalePierre Gaspard (Brussels)
212007From Noncovalent Assemblies to Molecular MachinesJean-Pierre Sauvage (Strasbourg)
222010Quantum Effects in Chemistry and BiologyGraham Fleming (Berkeley)

Conferences on Chemistry gallery[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]