29 Scientists Came Together in the "Most Intelligent Photo" Ever Taken – My Modern Met

Posted: February 2, 2021 at 7:20 pm

The Fifth Solvay Conference on Quantum Mechanics in 1927, Brussels. Photo by Benjamin Couprie. From back row to front, reading left to right: Auguste Piccard, mile Henriot, Paul Ehrenfest, douard Herzen, Thophile de Donder, Erwin Schrdinger, Jules-mile Verschaffelt, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, Ralph Howard Fowler, Lon Brillouin, Peter Debye, Martin Knudsen, William Lawrence Bragg, Hendrik Anthony Kramers, Paul Dirac, Arthur Compton, Louis de Broglie, Max Born, Niels Bohr, Irving Langmuir, Max Planck, Marie Skodowska Curie, Hendrik Lorentz, Albert Einstein, Paul Langevin, Charles-Eugne Guye, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson, Owen Willans Richardson. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

While the fifth Solvay Conference is the most well known, this prestigious intellectual gathering was first held in 1911 with the theme of Radiation and the Quanta. A young Albert Einstein was in attendance, as was Max Planck, who discovered the energy quanta being discussed. Mathematician and physicist Henri Poincar was also presentknown as the last universalist for being a leader across multiple disciplines before academic specialization began to make that impossible.

The only woman in attendance in 1911 was Marie Curie, the legendary researcher of radioactivity. Curie was already exceptionally accomplished, having won her first Nobel Prize in Physics (shared with her husband and a colleague) in 1903the first time the Prize was awarded to a woman. In 1911the year of the first Solvay ConferenceCurie won her second Nobel Prize, this time on her own and in Chemistry. She was the first person to win the prize twice, and she remains the only person to ever receive a prize in two scientific disciplines.

Despite Madame Curies' accomplishments, women were incredibly rare in STEM in the early 20th century. As a result, even in 1927, Curie was once more the only woman at the Fifth Solvay Conference. Einstein and Planck returned. They were joined by Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, and Erwin Schrdingerall of whom were pioneers of the new quantum mechanics which drew upon Planck's quanta and other discoveries of how the universe functions on an atomic level.

Of the 29 scientists at the conference, 17 would win Nobel prizes in their lifetime. Virtually all would hold university chairs teaching the new theories which were changing the world from one Newton could explain to an entirely new realm of energy, wave-particle duality, and uncertainty. Captured on one day in October, the Salvoy Conference photo shows 29 of the greatest minds of the 20th century taking a brief break from the long process of defining the universe.

First Solvay Conference in 1911, Brussels. Photo by Benjamin Couprie. Seated (left to right): Walther Nernst, Marcel Brillouin, Ernest Solvay, Hendrik Lorentz, Emil Warburg, Jean Baptiste Perrin, Wilhelm Wien, Marie Skodowska-Curie, and Henri Poincar.Standing (left to right): Robert Goldschmidt, Max Planck, Heinrich Rubens, Arnold Sommerfeld, Frederick Lindemann, Maurice de Broglie, Martin Knudsen, Friedrich Hasenhrl, Georges Hostelet, Edouard Herzen, James Hopwood Jeans, Ernest Rutherford, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, Albert Einstein, and Paul Langevin. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

Neils Bohr, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922 for his work on atoms and their radiation. He developed the Bohr model to describe electrons, their charges, and how they move between orbits. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

Marie Curie, two-time Nobel Laureate in Physics and Chemistry respectively. Curie was the first female professor at the University of Paris. Photo by Henri manuel circa 1920. (Photo: Wikimedi Commons [Public domain])

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29 Scientists Came Together in the "Most Intelligent Photo" Ever Taken - My Modern Met

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