Gifford Lectures
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Gifford Lectures 2008 — University of Glasgow

Information on the April 2008 lectures to be held at the University of Glasgow. [More…]

Recent Gifford Lectures

An update on lectures given in 2007. [More…]


Videos of programs inaugurating the Gifford Lectures Web site are now available online. [More…]

New Books Based on Gifford Lectures

Three new books derived from the Gifford lectures are available. [More…]

Video of Noam Chomsky's 2005 Lecture at Edinburgh

A video of Professor Chomsky's 2005 lecture entitled “Illegal but Legitimate: a Dubious Doctrine for the Times” is available on the Web. Click here for details.

Gifford Lecture Online Project “Kick-off” Events Held August 15th

Two events were held in Edinburgh on August 15, 2005 signaling the official opening of the Gifford Lectures Online Project. [More…]

Edinburgh Book Festival

Brochure on the Gifford Lectures Online Project

A PDF brochure highlighting the launch of the Gifford Lectures Online Project is now available.

New Book on the Gifford Lectures

The Measure of God: Our Century-Long Struggle to Reconcile Science & Religion has been written by Larry Witham. [More…]

Forthcoming Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh

The great tradition of the Gifford lectures continues at the University of Edinburgh. [More…]


Werner Carl Heisenberg

1901 - 1976

Director, Max Planck Institute, Gottingen



Werner Heisenberg was born in Würzburg in 1901, the son of Dr. August Heisenberg and his wife, Annie Wecklein. In 1920 he began studying physics at the University of Munich under Sommerfeld, Wien, Pringsheim and Rosenthal. In the winter of 1922–1923 he went to Göttingen to study physics under Max Born, Franck and Hilbert. He took his Ph.D. in 1923 and became Born’s assistant. He was then awarded a Rockefeller grant, which between 1924 and 1925 allowed him to work at the University of Copenhagen with Niels Bohr.
In 1926 Heisenberg was appointed Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen under Bohr, and in 1927 he was appointed Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Leipzig. For his work on the theory of quantum mechanics, Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1932. Over the span of his career he was also awarded several other prizes and honorary doctorates.
In 1941 Heisenberg was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of Berlin and Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics. During the Second World War he headed German efforts in nuclear fission research, which failed to develop a nuclear reactor or atomic bomb. At the end of the war Heisenberg and other German physicists were taken prisoner by American troops and sent to England.
Heisenberg returned to Germany in 1946 and helped to reorganize the Institute for Physics at Göttingen, which was renamed the Max Planck Institute for Physics. In 1953 he became President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Beginning in 1958 Heisenberg was Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Munich.
Heisenberg is best known for his principle of uncertainty, or indeterminacy principle, which states that it is impossible to determine with arbitrarily high accuracy both the position and momentum (essentially velocity) of a subatomic particle like the electron. In the later part of his life, Heisenberg also worked on problems of plasma physics and thermonuclear processes, and established a close collaboration with the International Institute of Atomic Physics at Geneva, where he was for several years chairman of the Scientific Policy Committee.
Heisenberg married Elisabeth Schumacher in 1937 and they had seven children. He died in 1976.
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