“Here was a revolutionary theory. It contradicted the mechanics of Newton and the electromagnetics of Faraday and Maxwell. Moreover, it challenged the notion of the continuity of nature... The quantum theory has affected virtually every branch of physics.” –Printing and the Mind of Man, 391
RARE FIRST EDITION OF THE FULL EXPRESSION OF PLANCK’S QUANTUM THEORY; THE FOUNDING DOCUMENT THAT REVOLUTIONIZED MODERN PHYSICS.
“The essence of Planck’s idea, mathematical only to begin with, was that electromagnetic radiation was not continuous, as people thought, but could only be emitted in packets of definite size. Newton had said that energy was emitted continuously, but Planck was contradicting him. It was, he said, as if a hosepipe could spurt water only in ‘packets’ of liquid... By 14 December that year, when Planck addressed the Berlin Physics Society, he had worked out his full theory. Part of this was the calculation of the dimensions of this small packet of energy, which Planck called h and which later became known as Planck’s constant... Planck had identified this very small packet as a basic indivisible building block of the universe, an ‘atom’ of radiation, which he called a ‘quantum.’ It was confirmation that nature was not a continuous process but moved in a series of extremely small jerks. Quantum physics had arrived” (Watson, The Modern Mind).
“Planck made many contributions to theoretical physics, but his fame rests primarily on his role as originator of the quantum theory. This theory revolutionized our understanding of atomic and subatomic processes, just as Albert Einstein's theory of relativity revolutionized our understanding of space and time. Together they constitute the fundamental theories of 20th-century physics. Both have forced man to revise some of his most cherished philosophical beliefs, and both have led to industrial and military applications that affect every aspect of modern life” (Roger H. Stuewer, Britannica).
Planck won the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the quantum theory. Published by the Berlin Physics Society, the first appearance of Planck’s revolutionary work is very rare. (It was later published, in 1901, in the more widely distributed Annalen der Physik.)
Provenance: The Harrison D. Horblit copy, with his original receipt of purchase from 1966 laid-in. Horblit was arguably the most notable 20th-century collector of scientific books.
Zur Theorie des Gesetzes der Energieverteilung im Normalspectrum, In Verhandlungen der Deutchen Physikalischen Gesellschaft, vol.2, no. 17, pp. 237-245. Leipzeg: Johann Abrosius Barth, 1900. Contemporary three-quarter calf. The entire volumes 1 & 2 (containing the Planck) included. With bookplate, cancellation stamps, and small binding stickers from St. John’s College, Cambridge. Some scuffing to binding, very minor dampstaining to outer corners of first few gatherings of volume 1. Planck paper (and entire volume 2) in fine condition. A handsome copy of one of the fundamental papers in all of science.
Price: $22,000 .