Wolfgang Pauli (1900 - 1958) biography

Wolfgang Pauli was born in Vienna, on 25 April 1900 (1, 2). He attended the Döblinger Gymnasium, Vienna (3, 4), then in 1918 went to the University of Munich where he received his Doctoral diploma in theoretical physics, 'summa cum laude' in 1921 (supervisor Arnold Sommerfeld) (5). At Sommerfeld's suggestion, he wrote an article on relativity theory for the Encyklopädie der mathematischen Wissenschaften.

He spent the winter term 1921-1922 as an assistant of Max Born at Göttingen University, where he met Niels Bohr for the first time. After a summer as assistant to Wilhelm Lenz at Hamburg University, he was invited by Bohr to the University of Copenhagen for a year. Here Pauli's research and interest in the anomalous Zeeman effect culminated in 1924 with the formulation of the "Exclusion Principle" which governs how particles like electrons co-exist. It was for this he received the Nobel Prize in 1945.

From 1923-1928 he taught physics at the University of Hamburg (6, 7, 8). In April 1928 he became a professor at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Zürich and kept his professorship until his death in 1958 (9).

In December 1929 he married Käthe Deppner; the marriage lasted less than one year. During this period Pauli suffered a severe life crisis, aggravated by the suicide of his mother, and he underwent psychoanalytic treatment with Carl Gustav Jung from 1932-4. Most of his direct contact was initially with Jung's student, Erna Rosenbaum, but the two men remained friends and published together on various topics.

In 1930 Pauli postulated the existence of the neutrino, which was finally confirmed by its detection in the experiment by Clyde Cowan and Fred Reines at Los Alamos in 1956 (10, 11).

In April 1934 Pauli married Franca Bertram. In July 1940 he and his wife left Europe for the USA, where he was a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey (12, 13). It was there, in November 1945, that Pauli received the news that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for the Exclusion Principle (14, 15). He was not able to attend the Nobel festivities in Stockholm to give his Nobel Lecture until 1946 (16, 17, 18).

He obtained American citizenship in 1946, but then returned to Zürich in the same year to take up his professorship at ETH. His links with the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton remained.

On the 25 July 1949 Pauli became a Swiss citizen.

At the age of 58, Wolfgang Ernst Friedrich Pauli died on 15 December 1958 at the Red Cross Hospital in Zürich, Switzerland.

List of references (original documents and photos)
1. Photo: Wolfgang Pauli at 20 months with his mother, December 1901
2. Photo: Wolfgang Pauli at 4 years, July 1904
3. Photo: Wolfgang Pauli's school class, later known as 'the class of genius', 1918
4. Wolfgang Pauli's high school diploma, July 1918
5. Booklet of lessons followed by Wolfgang Pauli at the University of Munich, and attestation that he completed the university course, October 1921
6. Wolfgang Pauli's Habilitation (University lecturing qualification) University of Hamburg, February 1924
7. Poster for Wolfgang Pauli's inaugural lecture at the University of Hamburg, February 1924
8. Nomination of Wolfgang Pauli as professor at the University of Hamburg 1926
9. Nomination of Wolfgang Pauli as professor at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich, January 1928
10. Letter outlining Wolfgang Pauli's ideas on the existence of the neutrino, addressed via Lise Meitner to the 'Dear Radioactive Ladies and Gentlemen' attending a conference in Tübingen, December 1930
11. Telegram from Frederick Reines and Clyde Cowan to Wolfgang Pauli announcing the detection of the neutrino, June 1956
12. Wolfgang Pauli's registration certificate for residence in the United States, 1942
13. Photo: Wolfgang Pauli at Princeton, USA, on his 45th birthday, April 1945
14. Telegram from Arne Westgren informing Wolfgang Pauli that he has been awarded the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physics, November 1945
15. Official letter from Arne Westgren confirming award of the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physics to Wolfgang Pauli, November 1945
16. Permit allowing Wolfgang Pauli to depart from the USA for Nobel Prize lecture tour, February 1946
17. Wolfgang Pauli's Nobel Prize certificate, 1945
18. Two menus, for Wolfgang Pauli's Nobel Prize banquet and dinner, December 1946

Last modified
17 July, 2020