Interpretation in Electrodynamics, Atomic Theory, and Quantum Mechanics

Giora Hon, Bernard R. Goldstein

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The problem of interpretation is not unique to quantum mechanics, for it is apparent in classical electrodynamics and was acknowledged at the time. In the original quantum theory, an agreed mechanical interpretation emerged, but it then became clear that this interpretation led to insurmountable difficulties. The formal solution of the quandaries in the quantum theory were provided by the theory of matrix mechanics and the theory of wave mechanics: they both exposed the latent foundational problem of interpretation. We claim that this problem is inherent to physics. We examine two cases, electrodynamics and the physics of the atom, and then analyze in some detail the position taken by Erwin Schrödinger. The two cases serve to highlight the problematic relation between symbolic language and verbal expressions where the latter reflects mental images of the physics at stake, and the former its mathematical structure.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the History of Quantum Interpretations
EditorsOlival Freire
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)
ISBN (Print)9780198844495
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2022


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