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The Motivation for Quantum Mechanics

Physicists at the end of the nineteenth century believed that most of the fundamental physical laws had been worked out. They expected only minor refinements to get ``an extra decimal place'' of accuracy. As it turns out, the field of physics was transformed profoundly in the early twentieth century by Einstein's discovery of relativity and by the development of quantum mechanics. While relativity has had fairly little impact on chemistry, all of theoretical chemistry is founded upon quantum mechanics.

The development of quantum mechanics was initially motivated by two observations which demonstrated the inadeqacy of classical physics. These are the ``ultraviolet catastrophe'' and the photoelectric effect.


David Sherrill 2006-08-15