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Quantum Field Theory And Renormalization

Although the quantum theory began with the study of radiation, it took more than two decades before the electromagnetic field itself was quantized. The results obtained before 1928 used semiclassical approaches such as Bohr's correspondence principle. Dirac first made a fully quantum theory of electrons interacting with photons in 1927. Heisenberg, Pauli, and later Fermi, extended the theory, but although it produced valuable results not otherwise obtainable, it was found to be mathematically unsound at very high energy, and predicted infinite results for the obviously finite charge and mass of the electron. The problem was solved only in the late 1940s by the renormalization theories of the American theorists Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, Freeman Dyson, and the Japanese theorist Sin-itiro Tomonaga. Elementary particle physics in the twenty-first century is dominated by a so-called Standard Model, which is based entirely on the use of renormalized quantum fields.

See also Physics; Relativity; Science.


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Mehra, Jagdish, and Helmut Rechenberg. The Historical Development of Quantum Theory. 6 vols. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1982–2001. The most complete history available.

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van der Waerden, B. L., ed. Sources of Quantum Mechanics. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing, 1967. Reprint. New York: Dover Publications, 1968.

Wheaton, Bruce R. The Tiger and the Shark: Empirical Roots of Wave-Particle Dualism. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Laurie M. Brown

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Propagation to Quantum electrodynamics (QED)Quantum - Planck's Paper Of 1900, Einstein's Light Quantum, Neils Bohr And The "old Quantum Theory"