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The Principles of Quantum Mechanics

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The Principles of Quantum Mechanics
Title page of the first edition
AuthorPaul Dirac
SubjectQuantum mechanics
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date
Publication placeUnited Kingdom
Media typePrint

The Principles of Quantum Mechanics is an influential monograph on quantum mechanics written by Paul Dirac and first published by Oxford University Press in 1930.[1] Dirac gives an account of quantum mechanics by "demonstrating how to construct a completely new theoretical framework from scratch"; "problems were tackled top-down, by working on the great principles, with the details left to look after themselves".[2] It leaves classical physics behind after the first chapter, presenting the subject with a logical structure. Its 82 sections contain 785 equations with no diagrams.[2]

Dirac is credited with developing the subject "particularly in Cambridge and Göttingen between 1925–1927" (Farmelo).[2] It is considered one of the most influential texts on quantum mechanics, with theoretical physicist Laurie M. Brown stating that it "set the stage, the tone, and much of the language of the quantum-mechanical revolution".[3]



The first and second editions of the book were published in 1930 and 1935.[4]

In 1947 the third edition of the book was published, in which the chapter on quantum electrodynamics was rewritten particularly with the inclusion of electron-positron creation.[4]

In the fourth edition, 1958, the same chapter was revised, adding new sections on interpretation and applications. Later a revised fourth edition appeared in 1967.[4]

Beginning with the third edition (1947), the mathematical descriptions of quantum states and operators were changed to use the Bra–ket notation, introduced in 1939 and largely developed by Dirac himself.[5]

Laurie Brown wrote an article describing the book's evolution through its different editions,[6] and Helge Kragh surveyed reviews by physicists (including Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, and others) from the time of Dirac's book's publication.[7]



See also



  1. ^ "Paul A.M. Dirac – Biography". The Nobel Prize in Physics 1933. Retrieved 26 September 2011. Dirac's publications include ... The Principles of Quantum Mechanics (1930; 3rd ed. 1947).
  2. ^ a b c Farmelo, Graham (2 June 1995). "Speaking Volumes: The Principles of Quantum Mechanics" (Book review). Times Higher Education Supplement: 20. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  3. ^ Brown, Laurie M. (2006). "Paul A. M. Dirac's Principles of Quantum Mechanics" (PDF). Physics in Perspective. 8 (4): 381–407. doi:10.1007/s00016-006-0276-4. S2CID 120303937.
  4. ^ a b c Dalitz, R. H. (1995). The Collected Works of P. A. M. Dirac: Volume 1: 1924–1948. Cambridge University Press. pp. 453–454. ISBN 9780521362313.
  5. ^ PAM Dirac (1939). "A new notation for quantum mechanics". Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 35 (3): 416–418. Bibcode:1939PCPS...35..416D. doi:10.1017/S0305004100021162. S2CID 121466183.
  6. ^ Brown, L.M. (2006), "Paul A.M. Dirac's The Principles of Quantum Mechanics" (PDF), Physics in Perspective, 8 (4): 381–407, Bibcode:2006PhP.....8..381B, doi:10.1007/s00016-006-0276-4, S2CID 59431829, archived from the original (PDF) on 28 February 2020
  7. ^ Helge Kragh (2013), Paul Dirac and The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, Research and Pedagogy, Studies 2: A History of Quantum Physics through Its Textbooks, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften, ISBN 9783945561249