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Interview of Annemarie Schrodinger by Thomas S. Kuhn on 1963 April 5,Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,College Park, MD USA,www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4865
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This interview was conducted as part of the Archives for the History of Quantum Physics project, which includes tapes and transcripts of oral history interviews conducted with Ca. 100 atomic and quantum physicists. Subjects discuss their family backgrounds, how they became interested in physics, their educations, people who influenced them, their careers including social influences on the conditions of research, and the state of atomic, nuclear, and quantum physics during the period in which they worked. Discussions of scientific matters relate to work that was done between approximately 1900 and 1930, with an emphasis on the discovery and interpretations of quantum mechanics in the 1920s. Also prominently mentioned are: Niels Henrik David Bohr, Max Born, Peter Josef William Debye, Werner Heisenberg, Cornelius Lanczos, Otto Lummer, Gilbert Murray, Walther Nernst, Wolfgang Pauli, Schrodinger (Erwin’s father), Schrodinger (Erwin’s mother), Erwin Schrodinger, Frau Schrodinger, Arnold Sommerfeld, Eamon de Valera, Hermann Weyl, E. T. Whittaker, Max Wien, Wilhelm Wien; Institute of Dublin, Magnetische Woche Congress, Universitat Berlin, and University of Oxford.
Could you tell me one of the questions that I could answer?
The question I’d most like to ask you and it may lead us on to other things is really how Professor Schrodinger worked and perhaps the way to ask that question would be to say what would be a typical working day for him. When did he get up in the morning — did he work in the morning or the afternoon.
He was not an early riser. He couldn’t work in the mornings at all. As far as that goes, it went that way in Berlin. The Planck lectures — as you know, it was thirty or forty years ago that Planck was in Berlin — were given in the morning from nine to ten. When he got this very, very honorable call to Berlin, he wrote first thing and said, “I’m very sorry, but I can’t keep the lecture hours because I can’t work in the morning.” That was a terrific thing for the university in Berlin because you know there are so many lectures and the main lectures are kept at the same hours; but after all they understood, and changed it to the afternoon — two lectures, one after the other — on two days. That was fine for him.
Did he sleep in the mornings?
He was a bad sleeper anyhow and he was tired because he worked sometimes in the evening and he had to have some recreation in between, you know. He did every kind of thing. He was weaving sometimes and he was doing sculptures sometimes, he was drawing sometimes; he was very gifted. Whatever he took on went fine and gave him a great pleasure to have something besides science. His father was a real artist. This is one of the pictures of his father.
I hadn’t known that. But his father was also a man of great versatility.
Yes, very very. My husband told me that when he was very young — it was after the First World War — he wanted to marry. There was no money — inflation and everything. He asked his father, “Couldn’t you take me into your business?” He had a kind of a Wachstuch manufacturer — I don’t know what that is in English.
Linoleum. Yes, but very old-fashioned and he was never interested it. He just had it and it gave him a good living and he was not interested at all. I don’t know what would have happened if he wouldn’t have died. Everything went down. His father said, “No, my dear, you won’t go to this business. You stay at the University and you go on and stay. I don’t want you to do that.” For this my husband was very pleased afterwards, that he was not given the chance to go away, to leave science altogether. He was partly English.
This is the father?
No, my husband. His mother had an Irish mother. His grandmother was Irish. They came from a little place — (Lemmington Spa) in England. So he was brought to England when he was a boy already. He was brought up in two languages anyhow. That’s why he had perfect English, you know. He had absolutely perfect English. Another great pleasure for him was literature. He was very interested in literature, in the theatre and in lyrics. He wrote poems himself.
You did give me that. I’ve been reading bits of it with pleasure.
Yes. He could translate from several languages, Spanish, Italian and English and Greek — whatever. He liked it very much. I met him for the first time in 1913. That was before the world war. I nearly was a child. I was born in Salzburg. He came for his holidays to a place near Salzburg, called (Seehalm). There he met his friend Kohlrausch. Kohlrausch was there with his children, you know. Through Kohlrausch I learned to know of my husband. Then the war broke out and it took a long time before we really came to get rid of those —. He had military service, of course.
Can I ask you when you first knew him before the war? Did your relationship develop to the point where you —.
So that really came after the war.
That came after. I was very impressed by him because, first of all, he was very good looking. He had a very remarkable face —. [Phone rings.] Just a moment. My feeling towards him was deeper because I was so impressed by him. I was already impressed by Kohlrausch because he told me about him. But with the war going on — we were correspondents during the war. I visited him once at his place near Trieste in Italy where he was staying. Then in 1919, we met again in his place in Salzburg and there we came together. So that was nice. He loved Salzburg also very much.
Was music among his interests?
No, he was not musical at all. No, he could tell you whether it’s good music or bad music, but he was not interested at all. His mother was very, very musical and most of the physicists are, really. He was not musical at all. His mother wanted him to learn some instrument. There came a teacher and said he should sing a tune which he was playing on the piano. And he said, “I’m not a piano, I can’t sing.” It was very funny. His mother stayed with us but she died very soon. His father died already in December 1919, but he had solved what would happen with us. There was inflation. I was secretary at an insurance company. I will tell you just a number — I had one thousand crowns a month and my husband’s salary was a thousand crowns a year at the university.
He was an assistant at the university.
Yes, he was privatdozent and assistant but without real pay. So that was absolutely not enough. But just before his father died we heard about Jena, so that he was quite satisfied that something was coming for us.
It really then was the move to Jena that enabled you to get married. And you would have gotten married earlier if there had been more money?
Yes, yes. No income, you know. I couldn’t give up my position if we had nothing else, you know.
I take it then that although his father had a good income, it was not the sort of income which enabled him to support his son.
Not at all. And after the war, everything broke down. The inflation — there was absolutely nothing left. Absolutely nothing. We had to keep his mother during her last years. She was very ill and she only lived one year longer than her husband. Would you be interested to have a (Stammtafel) [family tree]? Well, as I told you, we were only for four months in Jena. Then came the call to Stuttgart. From Stuttgart he had three calls: to Vienna, Breslau and Kiel. And we went to Kiel, or rather Breslau. When we left Stuttgart we knew already that there was a something going on in Zurich.
What was it that made the choice Breslau rather than Vienna in particular?
Because in Vienna there was a terrific financial situation you see. He asked for a salary which they couldn’t pay. In Germany it was better. He could never do it in Vienna. He couldn’t go for this salary, for this little salary. Thirring could take the job because he had some connection with the industry, you know. That made it possible for him to live on this small salary. In Breslau it was quite interesting to know Lummer of course. And then came Zurich and that, of course, was absolutely wonderful for us, leaving the inflation country and coming to Zurich. In Zurich there were Weyl, Debye, Scherrer, Edgar Meyer — many, many people. We were all very good friends together and of course Weyl was very much interested in my husband’s work. He was very, very glad that Weyl helped him such a lot and that he could speak with him whenever he wanted.
They worked together a lot, didn’t they?
They never published together but they spoke together and had great pleasure in their conversations.
Did you tell me the other day that for a while they met every Tuesday?
With Weyl, yes. That was only during the wave mechanics time. They found out it would be nice to discuss it on a special day. So every Tuesday night he went over and Weyl was very excited to hear the new progress and if he couldn’t go on with his mathematics, he told him how to go on. That was very, very nice indeed.
Was there anybody else with whom your husband talked with about mechanics?
Well, Debye. Peter Debye.
Was he close to Debye?
Yes, yes. Debye and Weyl were at the E.T.H. and my husband was at the university. This trouble with the university — they had (only) theoretical physics — he was the third man who came — the first one was Einstein, who gave lectures in theoretical physics, the second was Laue and the third one was my husband; now it’s Heitler. Meanwhile I think it was Fues (sic) was there too, and then it was Heitler.
I think Debye also had that Job earlier.
Not at the university.
I think he was first at the university; then he went to Holland. Then he came back to the E.T.H.
I didn’t know that.
That can, in any case, be checked. Even before you got to Zurich, were there at Breslau, at Jena, at Stuttgart, particular people with whom your husband talked?
Lummer may have been fun to be with, but he cannot have been a man who was interested in the sorts of problems that interested Professor Schrodinger.
No. He never worked really with somebody. He was always alone. He liked to talk with people, but he never worked with them. Now in these days it’s all team work, isn’t it? He never would have gotten used to that.
I wondered for example, one of the people at Breslau who was doing quite interesting things himself was Ladenburg.
Yes, yes. Of course, they were together but —.
But nothing that had the same sort of meaning as the later conversations with —.
We worked together with Ladenburg in Berlin again. Then he was very ill. During the summer months he always went to the Alps. He liked mountaineering. He was not a real tourist [i.e. did not make difficult tours] but he loved the mountains. In Zurich he got a bit of a lung trouble, you know, and he was sent to Arosa to make a ‘Liegekur’. He had to lie down for some time. We loved Arosa and in this quiet little Arosa came the first ideas about the wave mechanics. That was in Arosa.
When did he first go there? How long was he there?
We were there once for nine months and then again for a few months. But in ‘25 when he started to work on that, we were in Arosa. I remember that he told me in Arosa about the paper of Einstein and de Broglie.
Can you remember how early in ‘25 he first was sent there?
I don’t know where this man Armin Hermann, where he has it from. He says in the biography it was in spring already.
Well, he says that work began in spring. I must say that I feel reasonably sure — it may well be that it was around Christmas time that he talked with you — but the ideas must have been coming before that because Professor Dirac among others says, and this information also comes from other places, that before the papers were ready, Professor Schrodinger had earlier solved the problem with relativity theory, which is the way that de Broglie had done it. He had solved it, gotten some answers and they were very disappointing answers. Then later he came back and did it non-relativistically and this is the form that seemed to work and was published. If that much was done to get those ideas and then to really write several papers in the mind, at least, before the first one was sent in — that has to have started before Christmas because the first paper is received by the journal in January.
It isn’t printed in January, but I’m quite certain that the ‘eingegangen’ date was January. It’s extremely early and, you see, by March they’re starting to come out, one right after the other.
In six or seven months the whole wave mechanics was published.
So I think it cannot be as late as Christmas and that is what makes me wonder when this period in Arosa could have started.
Well, perhaps you will find it in —.
There are other ways. I thought I would at least ask if you remembered.
No, I don’t remember. Not being a scientist, you know. But I know that he first lectured on the wave mechanics in July, ‘26. And it (the congress) was called “Magnetische Woche.”
And that was in Zurich.
That was in Zurich. There he gave a lecture and it was the first. There was this American professor Mendenhall and there were many people there. Sommerfeld was there and Debye and Weyl. It was a very nice congress anyway.
What do you remember of the way people first felt about it? Clearly, Planck and Einstein were both very enthusiastic from the start.
Yes. Planck and Einstein were very, very enthusiastic from the start. They were impressed, but perhaps they didn’t agree with every little bit. You can see the letters; Einstein said, “I’m enthusiastic about it.” Planck says, “I’m reading it like a child reads a puzzle.” Planck was most kind, of course.
But not everyone can have felt that way.
No, not everyone. Gottingen didn’t believe it. Born didn’t. Heisenberg, Born and Jordan — that was Gottingen.
Do you know how Sommerfeld, for example, felt about it?
Yes, Sommerfeld was very enthusiastic. You know, the older people were all very enthusiastic. The new ones didn’t believe it. Perhaps they couldn’t understand it.
That’s terribly interesting because it’s almost the reverse of the usual pattern.
For instance, Willy Wien was in Munich and he was very interested. He invited us to his summer place so that he could speak to my husband and make it more simple for him to get used to the whole idea. We were with him in Mittenwald. He invited us only for the reason he had not to read the paper, but he could get it explained by my husband himself.
Was Professor Schrödinger bothered by the reaction of the Gottingen people?
No, no, no, no. He was not. He must have felt very sure about his own idea. I think you will find a lot in the letters, in the Born letters.
I have been told, and I’m not at all sure where, that in the period before he started on wave mechanics Professor Schrödinger was quite discontent with the state of physics. What do you remember of the sorts of things he would say that expressed or gave form to that discontent?
He said, “Physics is in a terrible mess, and how will one find the way out.” But is it not written down in the — you know when the lectures were published, is there nothing — a foreword or something like that by my husband?
There may very well be something which speaks more of this but I don’t know. Your husband has written so much and I have certainly not read it all. Did this mess affect his feelings for physics? I know, for example, that he spoke in the preface to the very last book, which you showed me yesterday, of the sense that he was going to do philosophy instead of physics. Did he ever seriously contemplate that after he was started, by the time he got —
I don’t know. It’s forty, nearly forty years ago.
I always ask too many questions that people can’t answer. Sometimes, I never know which one you will be able to answer. One of the nicest and most interesting aspects of those first papers on wave mechanics is how much is said in them, some of it in a very personal way, more personal than I think most scientists would have written, immensely rewarding to read now. Why one approach is better than another, etc.
I wish you could speak with Professor Fues. He was very much interested, of course, and he was with him and he spoke a lot to him when he was in Zurich during that time. Who else — Heitler, of course, could tell you.
Heitler we have spoken with and I’ve also talked with Debye. Unfortunately, his memories of that period are not at all good. He does not —.
Well, he’s quite old now.
He’s very active and vital, remarkably so.
Where is he living now?
He lives in Ithaca, New York, though he travels a great deal.
He has all sorts of consulting Jobs, and keeps moving.
Well, let me come back and ask you again. We started talking about Professor Schrodinger’s working day. You said that in the morning — I take it he did not get up very early and that then he did mostly the sorts of recreations that interested him. Would he then regularly settle down to work after lunch if there was not a lecture?
You know, when he was working on a certain subject, he didn’t do much recreation, but in the meantime between two papers, he tried to do something; he never slept in the afternoon. He never had a rest in the afternoon. He was going on. He smoked a lot and that was one of the reasons why we always kept separate rooms, so that I shouldn’t always be surrounded by all this smoke. Sometimes if he was not working very hard on a certain subject he read a lot of books. He was immensely interested in Bertrand Russell and in (Bennett), in Gilbert Murray. This was a beautiful time in Oxford when we were together with Gilbert Murray because my husband was very, very fond of antique languages — Latin and Greek. He was a very good scholar; he was always first in his class during the whole time he studied. Gilbert Murray translated the Greek plays and we often were there and they spoke together. I found one letter in which Gilbert Murray said, “I’m so pleased that you think so highly of my translation.” It was very nice, indeed. We went to the theatre when we had the opportunity, already in Zurich and in Berlin, of course. Berlin was the most wonderful and absolutely unique atmosphere for all the scientists. They knew it all and they appreciated it all. That’s why they were all so terrifically depressed when this broke down because everybody thought, “It never will be like that again. It couldn’t be.” And it never was like that before either. It was long enough after the First World War that one had a bit forgotten the first war and before the second, so it was absolutely a wonderful time. The theatre was at the height, the music was at the height and science with all the scientific institutes, the industry. And the most famous colloquium. They had a colloquium at the university, you know where about 100 people, 100 students were present. In the first row there were twelve or fourteen Nobel Prize winners sitting there. It was the most famous colloquium I think ever held. Lise Meitner, Einstein, Planck, Nernst, Haber, Hertz, Pringsheim — a terrific lot. The Berlin Academy had published lectures which were very famous too. There were lots of friends who come together, not on a special day; it was absolutely a very nice contact — social life. My husband liked it very much indeed.
Which of the people there was he closest to — which of the scientists there was he closest to and did he talk most with in Berlin? Surely he did talk much with Einstein.
Yes, of course. And Planck. When we came to Berlin we stayed in Planck’s house for the first time. Planck, Rubens, Einstein, Pringsheim. Who were the others? There were so many.
Laue, of course, yes. [interruption] When we came to Berlin we thought, “Well, we will stay in Berlin for a good while.” We couldn’t have thought that we’d have to leave Berlin.
You told me yesterday about who was on the list of people for the Berlin job.
Sommerfeld in first place, my husband second, and Born.
Your husband would really have preferred it if Sommerfeld had taken it and you’d have gone to Munich.
To Munich, yes. But afterwards, no. He never regretted it because it was so wonderful in Berlin but really he didn’t know whether —
Did he ever consider staying in Zurich after he had the call to Berlin?
No, that was impossible because they didn’t offer him enough. The Swiss are a bit careful and they wouldn’t pay — especially the university. It has not as much money as the E.T.H. The offer in Berlin was very high from the first moment on. So Zurich tried to get a bit more, but it never came near the salary which Berlin offered. When it came to the end, then they offered him a double-professeur at the E.T.H. and at the university so that both could pay, but even then he wouldn’t have had as much as he got in Berlin. Berlin was in a very good position then and offered really a lot. We got more, and more and more; it was very satisfactory.
In the summer ‘26, right after wave mechanics, your husband must have been in Copenhagen because you showed me that letter from Bohr saying how nice it has been to have him there. Were you there with him?
No, I wasn’t with him. But that letter says exactly how Bohr was pleased that he came to Copenhagen.
How did your husband feel about Copenhagen and about Bohr? I suppose that’s a difficult question because clearly in later years they were very much in disagreement. But did that exist from the beginning?
No, that was not from the beginning. He had a great admiration for Bohr and Bohr was very enthusiastic too in ‘26. Who worked with my husband in ‘26? Was it London? Or was it Fues? I think it was Fues.
I’m not perfectly sure.
No, Fues was already — no Fues succeeded him in Stuttgart. Fues was in Stuttgart at that time. At this congress, this ‘Magnetische Woche’ there were lots of foreigners there and they made a trip on the lake of Zurich. (showing photograph) This is Sommerfeld and Pauli and Fues —.
Which is Fues?
This is Fues. This is professor Mendenhall from Madison, Wisconsin, and this is Sommerfeld. But where was Pauli at that time?
In ‘26 I think Pauli was still in Hamburg.
He was still at Hamburg, yes. And there are lots of letters from Pauli as well. Pauli was sometimes very much against my husband and he had quite a rude way to say it but my husband didn’t mind a bit. He was just rough to him too and it was the best way; they were very good friends anyhow.
Of that younger group, which people did he particularly admire? — Pauli, Heisenberg.
Born — Born was his age. Pauli, Heisenberg. London was one of his best scholars anyhow. And Heitler —.
Did he like to have students?
Yes, yes, yes. I think he had a very good way to speak with them, you know. It was especially nice in Dublin in the late time because there he had no duties whatsoever. The whole scientific coming together. The main thing was to teach in the morning and to hold a colloquium or seminar in the afternoon. Never real lectures but always a conversation. He had a very nice room there and they could come and speak to him whenever they liked. They appreciated it very much.
But you say at Dublin also he did most of his work at home.
In Dublin he went everyday to the institute. He went every day, either in the noon or in the afternoon he went to the institute. One of his very famous scholars, I’ve never heard about him anymore, was Dr. (Peng), a Chinese.
(Peng.) Yes, I know the name. I’m not sure where.
He was very, very clever. [Also] (Dr. Bachsoo), an Indian.
Yes, I’ve heard that name.
And (Bertal). Really, I think he liked (Bertal) the best of all. Thirring was there too. He was very young; just after he had made his doctorate he came to Dublin. There were about ten or twelve students and lots of nationalities. They were very international. Of course, Ireland was not in the war, you know, and everybody loved to come there. There too he started with a kind of colloquium every year where people were invited and loved to come. Born came and P.P. Ewald came. P.P. Ewald was in Belfast. There were summer schools as they called it in Dublin and they were always very much pleased by it too. He liked it very much. After Berlin we went to Oxford. In Oxford he was not so happy because Oxford is no scientific center. He really was paid for nothing — just because he was Schrodinger, of course, they gave him a high salary, but he had no duties whatsoever. He couldn’t even give a lecture because the lectures are all made out. The scientific center was Cambridge, of course, and not Oxford. What is Almosen? He always called his high salary in Oxford, “I feel like an Almosen-[Nehmer].
Yes, ja, ja. But then the BBC started a lot of work with him. The BBC has records which might interest you too, and quite a lot. Then started these lectures — you know, where the books came out afterwards. While we were at Oxford, of course, he went often to London and saw Lord Russell and many friends. But in ‘36 when he got the call to Austria and to Edinburgh, he was never interested in politics. He hated politics. He never thought about politics at all. Otherwise we never should have come to together; it was absolutely completely stupid to break up Oxford and to go to Graz. That was only for one year though — year and a half.
You didn’t know that when you did it.
No, we didn’t know it; of course not.
Nor did you expect it.
No, but anybody who thought a bit about politics would have told, “Don’t go to Austria. It is already very much in danger.” The way as it really came then was dreadful, you know. Well, when the Nazis came to Austria, my husband got several invitations to foreign countries. He was not allowed to get the telegrams himself. They were brought to the university and he was called to the university and he was told, “Of course, you have to refuse. You can’t go to Brussels or so.” So it was really absolutely like a prison. Only through the de Valera we were secured because de Valera knew that we were in danger there and he let us know that there was the possibility for an institute for advanced studies in Dublin which he wanted to create if my husband said, in principle, “Yes, I will come,” or “no.” It was absolutely sure he could not write to my husband because everything was censored. So he asked (Whittaker) to ask Born; Born wrote to our friends in Zurich. Our friends in Zurich told a Dutchman, who came to Vienna, about the possibilities. We were not in Vienna. He didn’t come to Graz, he came to my mother and told her this important thing. She was afraid to take such a very important message without having anything written down, so he wrote just down in a few lines that de Valera wanted to create an Institute for advanced study and whether he would come, in principle. This little piece of paper my mother sent to Graz, you know. We saw it and we read it three times and then destroyed it, put it into the fire, and told nobody about it at all. I went with my car and with Thirring as far as Munich.
Thirring went with me and I went to Switzerland to Constance; I met our friends there and I told them, “Yes, in principle, he will come. But nothing should be done that will let anybody know that we are going away.” We never were allowed to go away. My friends wrote to Born and Born told Whittaker and Whittaker told de Valera and that was finished. He never spoke to de Valera; he never knew de Valera — nothing at all. When this (missive) came he was perfectly sure that he must leave Austria at once. A very good man here at the government — he came to Vienna and he spoke to him and said, “Oh, but it’s easy for you with your name to get another job in the industry, or somewhere.” My husband said, “No, for a theoretical physicist that is not so easy, and after all, all the Jews, their papers were invalid, displaced. I have to go to a foreign country to find my living again.” And he (the official) said, “They won’t let you go to a foreign country. Have you got still your passport?” But that was really well-meant. It was not a threat. That gave my husband a shock because he never thought he could be prevented to go to a foreign country. So in three days we packed everything — three suitcases. We had nothing more. We left everything in Graz behind, took a return ticket to Rome, because everybody knew us in Graz. We didn’t dare to take a taxi so that they knew what we have got with us. With my car I brought the luggage to the station and then I brought it back to the garage and I said that they should wash the car. I never saw the car at all again of course. I never saw the other things either because they were confiscated. And with ten marks in our pocket we left Graz. We didn’t have the money to pay the porter in Rome. We went to Rome; we went to Rome because my husband was a member of the Papal Academy. There Fermi told us, “Don’t write from Rome because it is already dangerous. It might be censored.” From Vatican City, where the Papal Academy is in the Vatican gardens — wonderfully situated - - he wrote three letters. One was to Lindemann to tell him that we left Graz; one to our friends in Zurich to get us some money because we had to borrow money from Fermi. And the third one to de Valera, who was the President of the League of Nations at that time. That was a Saturday when we posted the letters in Vatican City.
On Monday morning we went again to the Academy and after half an hour’s time came a Diener (servant) and told us that his ‘excellency’ was wanted at the telephone. My husband didn’t turn around. After having been thrown out of Graz — “Yes, yes,” the man said, “you are meant.” The Papal Academy uses the term ‘excellency’. The Irish — not the ambassador, but the next man in line, not Botschafter but Gesandter, was at the telephone and he said de Valera rang up this morning from Geneva and told him to do everything for us to bring us as soon as possible into Geneva. We should be at the legation in the afternoon and de Valera would phone; so we were there and this was the first time my husband heard de Valera speaking. He said that he was very glad that we were out of Austria and we should come to Geneva to discuss a few things but as soon as possible we should go on to England or Ireland because there was such a great danger of war in ‘38. The Munich Conference, you know. So he tried to get everything ready for us and again we couldn’t take any money out of Italy. He gave us a pound each and gave us first class tickets and off we went. I was quite happy already. I felt already safe, but my husband didn’t feel safe at all. In Domodossola they looked at our passports and the luggage they hardly looked at at all. But the passports were all right. And before we came to Iselle — Iselle, is the point where the Simplontunnel, the one end of the Simplontunnel — a carabinieri came into our compartment and we had to leave the compartment with all our luggage. He had a piece of paper with our name written on it. I nearly thought, “I’m dying.” It was really the fright of my life. We had to take off everything. He was separated from me with the luggage and I was in another place. I couldn’t speak Italian; there was a woman who looked through my things — saying, “Put everything toward the X-rays” They X-rayed every single bit of my things. I had my handbag, my tooth, everything. After about half an hour, or three-quarters of an hour, the train had to wait; it was an express train — we were allowed to enter the train again.
Then he was very nervous, but he knew what the case was. They had looked at our passports and we had visas for all of Europe because de Valera had said that if we can’t go through France, we must go through Spain or Portugal or something. We had everything. We were asked if we had some money. We said that we had one pound. Then they thought that we had to smuggle something, because one can’t go through Europe on one pound. De Valera was very, very pleased when we arrived. He was already in full dress because they had a banquet in the evening, but he received us and was very kind and we stayed for three days in his hotel and then rode on. But there was no idea of the institute at all and from that moment we went to Oxford because a fellow of Magdalen, he could go to Oxford. We went to Oxford first and then we got the invitation to Belgium. Five weeks after the outbreak of the war we left Belgium. We had a letter from the high commissioner of de Valera to lead us through England, because we were enemy aliens, of course. We were very, very happy when we at last arrived in Dublin. It was seventeen years we stayed there. It was really wonderful, peaceful. Really, he liked it very, very much. He was very interested in Gaelic as well, you know. He tried to learn Irish, but it is so complicated. You have no grammar, no nothing. At the last he gave it up. But he liked it very much. After the second war, Austria wanted to have him back, you know. Already in ‘46 there was a state president who was very much interested in physics, Dr. (Hanner). He tried to get him back but my husband was absolutely right to tell him, “No, I can’t come back as long as the Russians are here, because I can’t go into a country occupied by Russians. This is impossible.” This was quite right. Many people were taken away. They got a beautiful position in Russia, but after all, they were taken away. Well, it took ten years before we could go back. Then we were old enough and we liked to go back to our own home country, of course. Everybody was so kind here. The government was so kind and everybody was enthusiastic that he came back. He still lectured a year and a half or two years and gave public lectures and he got all the honors. I remember how often he was a member of an academy. There are so many. It was very funny that the first academy was Lima, in South America. I think it must have had something to do with (Hamilton) in Lima.
I have to look into that. I’m not sure what that connection would be but that is very interesting.
During the first ten years after the Second World War we came to Austria but we never came to Vienna. We stayed in Tirol. That was strange a bit. We never came to Vienna.
When you speak of being thrown out of Graz, was Professor Schrodinger’s appointment actually suspended before you left? At the time you left Graz he was still at the University, was he not?
So that when you speak of being thrown out — you meant it became impossible to stay but not that —.
No, not that, no.
I think it was you, rather than Professor Thirring, who told me about the initial call to Jena. Did you tell me that Max Wien had written to Sommerfeld?
Max Wien had written to Sommerfeld to ask, “Who could I ask to come and teach theoretical physics. Who would you recommend?” Sommerfeld said, “Look at three Austrians. There are three Austrians — Flamm, Thirring, and Schrödinger.” As I told you, Flamm couldn’t go because he didn’t want to leave Vienna. As Boltzmann’s son-in-law, his wife wouldn’t like to go. And Thirring had already connection with the industries and we were glad we could get married.
It was just in that connection. I come back again also to this question of how Professor Schrodinger worked and I think also you could tell us things that may help us with the manuscripts. He seems always to have written things down.
Everything. I don’t think he thought of thinking a thing which he had not written down. Whatever it was, whether it was physics or politics or literature, he always made notes. That’s why there is such an immensity of things.
I think generally he saved the notes — did he not? Clearly there is a lot that has now disappeared.
What disappeared must have been correspondence because in Graz, when the things were (sent to be returned) we didn’t get back everything. Even our furniture was nearly all destroyed. We got back the books. Maybe a fire destroyed the files and so on, you know. It was very funny when I came to Graz in ‘47 to find his manuscripts, to look for them, I was brought into a warehouse; in one corner were the effects of Professor Loewi, Dr. Loewi, the physiologist, also a Nobel Prize winner; in the other corner were Victor Hess’ things. In the third corner were our things, so the three Nobel Prize winners from Austria were there. Very little was left.
They were all at Graz?
They were all at Graz, yes. Very little was left. The most beautiful things were Professor Loewi’s and they were taken away by the British officers for their — What do you call it?
And with Loewi we were together again in Belgium. Loewi was asked to Belgium too. He was a very fine man, a very interesting man. I have a few letters from him. Very nice person. You know he (Schrodinger) worked in his room.
And mostly that was a room at home.
Mostly it was the room at home, yes.
And you say that he often also slept in there so that he could work late at night.
How late would he work?
Until eleven, or midnight. He never had a secretary, even if he could have had one, he wouldn’t have liked to dictate. He preferred to write the things on his little typewriter. He wrote it himself. Only in Dublin he had a secretary for the institute, but not for his private work. He never used it. For his manuscripts he always had it handwritten as you see. Very seldom that we had it done.
I notice looking over the papers, and I think this is also true of the notes, that although he kept his scientific notes, there is very little that represents his other interests. There’s not much of his notes on literature, there’s just the occasional scraps of poetry.
Yes, I think most of his things have gotten lost in Graz. Just got lost in Graz. It is amazing that we could have saved this amount. He had a steel cabinet, a filing cabinet, where he kept some things separate which were very valuable to him. And when we had to leave Graz we didn’t know what to do with all these precious things — the Nobel medal and Planck medal and a few others as well. So he just put them in on the end of this cabinet and when I saw this cabinet again, the Russians had crushed in the drawers but they saw it was only paper so they didn’t mind. They left it as it was. I really found the golden medals. That is really amazing.
I get the sense looking at some parts of the papers your husband wrote that he was interested in philosophy early, but his own real writing on the subject only begins after England. Except only that he had the earlier manuscripts.
Yes, yes. He was too much occupied with physics in the meantime. That’s what he said in the foreword of this book.
Had he talked to you about wanting to go back and do more philosophical work again?
Oh yes, yes. He said, “If I only had a little more time I would be pleased to do a little extra work in philosophy.” Maybe these Eranos lectures would be a help for you.
Yes, here is one of his. “Der Geist der Naturwissenschaft” in the 1946 volume. How old —. These were published in Zurich by the Rhein Verlag, this is volume 14 of ‘46, published ‘47.
This is already the fifteenth. But we have it only since he was invited there. ‘42. Have you ‘43?
No, I have ‘46 and ‘47.
‘42. ‘43 is missing. ‘44, ‘45, ‘46 and ‘47.
Yes. These I will have to find which I’m sure I can. This began again with your husband only in ‘42.
I see a paper by Jung. How did he feel about Jung?
Now Jung was the God of Eranos, absolutely the God. He (my husband) was not very much impressed. It was too much of a publicity.
Did Pauli have much of an interest —?
No, Pauli was never there.
Pauli was very much interested in Jung.
Yes, Pauli was, but he was never in Ascona. This lady of (???), I think she’s a Dutch. She made it like a sanctum for Jung. She did everything.
May I take that card? It will help me to know her name as the organizer of (Eranos).
If you like, I could put it with the other papers.
No, I think the books should be kept together.
You can fill it in if you like.
These can certainly be found in libraries. There are also a lot of papers in there that contain some of the programming. Those volumes we do have. The Nobel Volumes we have.
Yes, definitely and they’ve been very useful to us in much of our preparation.
Yes, of course. They have very good biographies and so on. A great pleasure for him was also the (Pour le Merite). The Papal Academy and the (Pour le Merite).
I don’t know what that is, the (Pour le Merite).
Well, this is the highest ‘Orden’ (for physicists) you can get. There was a (Pour le Merite) during the war but that has been ceased altogether. But now it’s (Pour le Merite) for Frieden and Kunst and Wissenschaft. Only a few people have gotten it. It is given in Bonn by the president — by the German president. He couldn’t go there to Bonn because he was already very ill after his 70th birthday. The German ambassador here made a great (ceremony); invited us to the government and people from the university came and he got the (Pour le Merite). And he loved it very much. There are only a certain number in the whole world, you know. I think there are (70) who can have (it.) You have to give back the order after the death (of the receiver). I had to give it back. I was invited now in Bonn to the (Pour le Merite) conference where Heisenberg held a eulogy to my husband. This was excellent. If you could get hold of that.
Yes, that was the one you mentioned yesterday that we did not know. Has that been printed?
Yes, that one we must certainly find because we know several of the others; particularly both Dirac’s and Heitler’s have been very helpful.
Now Dirac has the (Pour le Merite) after my husband’s death. Lise Meitner — the only woman in the world —; Madame Curie had it.
It follows the Nobel Prize list.
Ja, Ja. With Lise Meitner in Berlin it was beautiful. We were very good friends with Lise Meitner, and Otto Hahn.
Did she and your husband talk science?
Oh yes, yes.
Of course, their fields were different enough, their interests were different enough so that I would not —.
She was always very much admiring my husband’s work and he admired hers’. She is a very, very sweet lady. (Showing Lindau conference photograph) This is such a last terrible picture of Bohr in Lindau. It was two days before he got this stroke.
I’ve never seen that picture.
It is dreadful. He was much better than that when we saw him. In Lindau, the paper the 29th of June —.
After Bonn was this reunion at Lindau.(The physicists meet) every year — no, one year of physics, one year of chemistry, and one medicine. My husband never could take part because it was too strenuous for him so they were very kind to ask me to go there.
Isn’t this picture in the (Sudkurier) the 29th of June, 1962, a remarkable picture?
And Lise Meitner. I had to put it around her neck (the Pour le Merite). This is Hevesy. This is (Landau) talking. And this is Bernadotte from the Swedish Royal family, of course. And really the eulogy by Heisenberg was beautiful. I was a bit shocked by Heisenberg, how he looked. He was very ill.
Heisenberg was very ill one or two years ago. I hardly recognized him. He got so fat and so tired looking.
I may say he is not sick now. I spent most of February with him in Munich and he seems in very good health and very busy. Do you suppose there might be some of your husband’s correspondence left in Dublin?
There might be some correspondence left in Dublin, because they created a Schrodinger room too and they kept lots of things. It may be that he left the correspondence there. The (Debye) correspondence. After all, we were there from ‘39 to ‘56. That is a very long period. A very long period.
He might have also left other older letters there if he had them with him. Well, we will simply write to Dublin and ask.
They have a very kind secretary — a very nice lady, Mrs. Wills, Ava Wills. She’s the secretary of the institute and she will let you know what you want.
Excellent, excellent, good.
There is another man who could help you too, that is Lanczos. Lanczos was working at that institute at the same time; my husband brought him to Dublin. I think he’s also very interested in the history of science and he could give you lots of advice about the time in Dublin. It would be worthwhile to write to the institute.
I think we’ve probably already written the library there, but I have thought a great deal about whether we should try to see Lanczos. I think perhaps we should. He did just two or three papers that are very important in the development of quantum physics. Good. I’m very glad to have this lead and we will follow it up.