AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XL , No. 1, Spring 2008

Original Typescript of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Paper Discovered

The Archive for the History of Quantum Physics, microfilm 28 (H. A. Kramers notes and drafts, 1926-1952), section 6, contains an item described in the catalog to the collections as an "incomplete draft of an unpublished paper on quantum mechanical treatment of a few thought experiments [1928], 20 sheets." In fact, this is a partial typescript of Heisenberg’s uncertainty paper, with formulas and corrections in Heisenberg’s hand.

The typescript begins on p. 12 (mid-page 181 of the published paper) and is otherwise complete, except for the famous postscript reflecting Heisenberg’s conversations with Bohr of April and May 1927. It can probably be dated between 9 March 1927, when Heisenberg sent Pauli a provisional manuscript of the paper (or even 14 March, when he thanked Pauli for his comments on this manuscript), and 23 March, which is the paper’s date of submission. This version of the paper is essentially the final version, but it is not identical to the published paper.

I am currently preparing for publication (courtesy of the Werner Heisenberg Archive) a compilation of the textual differences between the two versions.

At the time of microfilming, most of the Kramers materials in AHQP microfilm 28 were in the possession of Prof. N. van Kampen. The typescript, however, is not currently among his possessions; I have not yet been able to ascertain its present whereabouts.

History of Physics cartoons
We invite readers to go to and take a look at Aaron Diaz’s history-of-physics (sort of) cartoon. © 2006 Aaron S. Diaz, reproduced by permission.

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