Revisiting Dr. Max Born, Physicist, Mathematician, Teacher, Nobel Prize Winner & Musician:  Madeline’s Monthly Blog, Musical Tips, & Radio Show for February 2024.

Our blog and Radio Show revisits the life and work of Dr. Max Born, physicist, mathematician, Nobel Prize winner  , teacher of 9 Nobel Prize winners, and musician.

Many of the world’s physicists, mathematicians, teachers, biologists, chemists, scientists, medical doctors, engineers, writers, and others have studied and played musical instruments since they were children. These eminent individuals have integrated music into their thinking process.

Also included is an article on “How Music Can Cultivate a Healthy Brain”.
Feature Question for February 2024 Radio Show: How did Classical music play a part of Dr. Max Born’s life as a physicist, mathematician and musician and what musical instrument did he play?  (This is a reissue from November 2011)


Early Life:

Max Born was born on Dec 11, 1882 in Breslau, German Empire, now called Wroclaw, Poland, to Gustav Born, his father, an anatomist and embryologist and Margarethe ‘Gretchen’ Kauffmann Born, his mother, was “from a Silesian family of industrialists. It was from his mother that Born inherited his love for music.” Max Born had a younger sister born two years after him. At an early age Max began to study the piano. His mother passed away when he was 4 years old. Max Born became a fine pianist.

As a young child he spent a year at home being tutored privately due to asthma and colds that “continued to afflict him throughout his life.”

Max Born attended preparatory school for two years then attended “the Wilhelm’s Gymnasium in Breslau. At the Gymnasium, Born studied a wide range of subjects including mathematics, physics, history, modern languages, Latin, Greek, and German.” While attending the Gymnasium his interests were in the humanities.

 Teachers and Classmates who inspired and encouraged Max Born’s interest in mathematics and science:

Max Born in 1901 attended the University of Breslau where he “followed his father’s advice” and took a wide range of courses that included physics, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, logic, zoology, and philosophy. While attending Breslau University, his mathematics teachers were London and Rosanes. “It was Rosanes, who introduced Born to the idea of group theory and matrix calculus, which Born later used successfully to solve physical problems. London’s lectures on definite integrals and analytical mechanics were clear and lucid.”

Born became interested in mathematics because of the excellent teachings of Rosanes and London. Several of his classmates awakened his interest in science and astronomy. Born,”in his later life acknowledged his debt to Otto Toeplitz for the first introduction to these pathfinders in mathematical science’.” Toeplitz whose father was a mathematician and teacher introduced Max Born to the mathematicians Cauchy, Legrange, Euler, and Riemann. Another of Max’s classmates, Lachmann opened his eyes to astronomy.

During that time it was common practice to move from one University to another. Born in 1902 attended the University of Heidelberg and then attended the University of Zurich in 1903 where “ his first course in advanced mathematics  was taught by Adolf Hurwitz (1859-1919). After coming back to Breslau University, he was told by his classmates Toeplitz and Hellinger of the great teachers of mathematics, Christian Felix Klein (1849-1925), the founder of modern geometry unifying Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry; David Hilbert (1862-1943), who originated the concept of Hilbert Space; and Hermann Minkowski (1864-1909), who developed the mathematics that played a crucial role in Einstein’s formulation of theory of relativity at the University of Gottingen.”

Born moved to the University of Gottingenso so that he could “attend lectures by these great scientists. At the Gottingen University, Born served as an Assistant to David Hilbert. He attended lectures by Klein and Carl Runge (1856-1927) on elasticity and a seminar on electrodynamics by Hilbert and Minkowski. Klein was annoyed with Born because of Born’s irregular attendance at his lectures. Born then attended Schwarzschild’s astronomy lectures.”

While a student at Gottingen University, Max Born “had the opportunity to go for walks in the woods with Hilbert and Minkowski. During these walks, all matters of fascinating subjects were discussed in addition to mathematics including problems pertaining to philosophy, politics and social. Born was also interacting with non-mathematicians like Courant, Schmidt and Caratheodory.” 

While “at the University of Gottinger” Max Born “wrote his dissertation, 1906, on the stability of elastic wires and tapes, under the direction of the mathematician Felix Klein, for which he was awarded a doctorate in 1907.”

Dr. Max Born married to Hedwig Ehrenberg on August 2, 1913 and they had 3 children. Their oldest was Irene Born Newton -John. She had 3 children. Her youngest was pop singer Olivia Newton-John.

Dr. and Mrs. Max Born’s second child was Margarethe Born Pryce Farley who had 3 children.

Their third child was Dr. Max Gustov Born, Professor of Pharmacologist  and Research Professor who had 5 children including his daughter Georgina Born , British Professor of  Sociology, Anthropologist and music. She is a cellist, and pianist.

Dr. Max Born was a fine pianist who played duets with his friend Albert Einstein on violin. He also played two piano concertos with Werner Heisenberg.

Dr. Born in 1915 “was appointed as Professor (extraordinarius) at the Berlin University to assist Max Planck. At the time Albert Einstein was also at the Berlin University. However, soon he had to join the Army. He was attached to a scientific office of the Army, where he worked on the theory of sound ranging.” During this time he also worked “on the theory of crystals, which led to publication his first book entitled “Dynamics of Crystal Lattices” summarizing a series of investigations that Born had initiated at Gottingen.”

After WW1 in 1919, Dr. “Born was appointed Professor at the University of Frankfurt-on-Main, where a laboratory was put at his disposal. Here Born’s assistant was Otto Stern, the first of Stern’s well-known experiments, which were awarded with a Nobel Prize originated there.”

Born in 1921, returned to the University of Gottingen as Professor of Physics where he stayed for 12 years, interrupted only by a visit to USA in 1925. Among his collaborators at Gottingen were Pauli, Heisenberg, Jordan, Fermi, Dirac, Hund, Weisskopf, Oppenheimer, Joseph Mayer and Maria Goeppert- Mayer.” During this time, ” Born’s most important contributions to physics were made. He published a modernized version of his book on crystals. Assisted by his students he undertook numerous investigations on crystal lattices, followed by a series of studies on quantum theory. Born corresponded with Einstein on the subject and the Born-Einstein letters were published in 1971.”

 “Born’s proposition of probability meant that the determinism of Newton’s classical physics was no more valid. There is no predetermined way in which absolute prediction can be made, as in classical physics. Everything depends on probability. A similar idea is embodied in the uncertainty principle of Werner Heisenberg. But Bohr, Sommerfeld, Heisenberg and many others took Born’s ideas seriously and they continued the exciting work of trying to get all pieces to fit.”

During this time Dr. Born developed his “Born Approximation, for solving problems concerning the scattering of atomic particles. Born and J. Robert Oppenheimer introduced a widely used simplification of the calculations dealing with electronic structures of molecules”. Their work was called the “Born-Oppenheimer theory of molecules” which “deals with interatomic forces.”

Dr. Born and his family fled Germany in 1933 for England. At the University of Cambridge he was the Stokes lecturer for three years. He “worked in the field of nonlinear electrodynamics, which he developed with Infeld. During the winter of 1935-1936, Born spent six months at Bangalore at the invitation of C. V. Raman.

Quote from Dr. Born:

Born said: “As I had no other job, I was willing to accept Raman’s offer namely, a permanent position at his institute, if he could obtain the consent of the Council. Then he insisted on my attending the next faculty meeting which had to decide on bringing my appointment before the Council. The English professor Aston (who had joined around the same time) went up and spoke in a most unpleasant way against Raman’s motion declaring that a second rank foreigner driven out from his own his country was not good enough for them. I was so shaken that, when I returned home, I simply cried.”
In 1936, Dr. Born worked at the University of Edinburgh as the elected “Tait Chair of natural philosophy”. In 1936 “he became a British subject.”

A research student of Dr. Born’s describes how he worked with his students at Edinburgh:

“When Born arrived in the morning he first used to make the round of his research students, asking them whether they had any progress to report, and giving them advice, sometimes presenting them with sheets of elaborate calculations concerning their problems which he had himself done the day before…The rest of the morning was spent by Born in delivering his lectures to undergraduate honors students, attending to departmental business, and doing research work of his own. Most of the latter, however he used to carry out at home in the afternoons and evenings.”

Dr. Born “collaborated with Pauli, Heisenberg, Fermi, Dirac, Raman, and Oppenheimer among others, while also writing and speaking frequently on the social responsibility of scientists.” (Born-Einstein Letters, 1916-1955: Friendship, Politics and Physics in Uncertain Times by Albert Einstein and Max Born. Translated by Irene Born.)

Dr. Max Born’s awards and prizes:

“Born was awarded Fellowships at many scientific academies-Gottingen, Moscow, Berlin, Bangalore, Bucharest, Edinburgh, London, Lima, Dublin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Washington, and Boston. He was awarded honorary doctorates from a number of universities including Bristol, Bordeaux, Oxford, Freidburg/Breisgau, Edinburgh, Oslo, and Brussels.

Dr. Max Born was awarded “the Stokes Medal of Cambridge, the Max Planck Medal of the German Physical Society, and the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society of London. He was also awarded the MacDougall-Brisbane Prize, the Gunning-Victoria Jubilee Prize of the Royal Society, Edinburgh and the Grand Cross of Merit with Star of the order of Merit of the German Federal Republic.”

In 1953 Dr. Born retired and returned “to his native country and settled in Gottingen. In 1954 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics “for his fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially for his statistical interpretation of the wave function.” Dr. Born shared his Nobel “Prize with Walther Wilhelm Georg Franz Bothe (1891-1957).”

In Nancy Greenspan’s biography of Max Born, “The End of the Certain World,” she reminds us that he was the “teacher of nine Nobel physicists” and that he waited “more than twenty years to receive” his Nobel Prize. “His Wunderkind, assistant Werner Heisenberg received his Nobel Prize in 1933.”

Max Born’s daughter, Irene Born Newton-John, describes to Nancy Greenspan “her father’s loving nature and brilliant mind.” Nancy Greenspan also wrote the book, “But God Does Play Dice: The Life and Science of Max Born” published in 2004 by Perseus Publishing.


 Dr. Max Born was a physicist, mathematician, researcher, Nobel Prize winner, teacher of 9 Nobel Prize winners, husband, father, grandfather, and lifelong musician. Dr. Max Born died on January 5, 1970 in Gottingen Germany his “tombstone displays his fundamental equation of matrix mechanics that is pq-qp = (h/ 2??i.”

“How Music Can Cultivate a Healthy Brain” (January 9, 2024) by Cori Vanchiere, AARP

“AARP sits down with neuroscientist Dr. Julene Johnson to explore the potential mental and physical health benefits of music.”

Ms. Vanchiere: How did you get involved in researching the impact of music on brain health?”

Dr. Julene Johnson: “I studied performance and music therapy in college. But I shifted to researching cognitive neuroscience and aging after observing an older woman with dementia who suddenly started playing piano in an adult day center. Everyone in the room came to life and started moving, tapping their feet and dancing. I was struck by how impactful something as simple as someone playing a tune had on the whole room. That inspired me to better understand what it is about music that affects us.”

Ms. Vanchiere: “What are some of the overlooked benefits that involvement with music can bring?”

Dr. Johnson: “We want people to be functional, safe and get a good nights sleep ; to have meaningful things to do during the day. People don’t think about music helping with these activities or with sleep. But it does. Dancing with music will improve physical function. That’s a link people don’t make. And our research shows singing in a choir eases loneliness and improves self-esteem. If you’re a caregiver , music is something you should think about as part of your care plan.”

Music and Memory: “Music has immense power. Its melodies can unite us emotionally, and its rhythms can move us physically. Though it’s been around for thousands of years, researchers are still learning about the potential benefits of music, including its effect on the brain and our memories. This project looks at the extraordinary role music plays in our lives and on our health.”


The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. is available in book form, and newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook:

       Barnes and Noble(Nook)

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 “Musical Notes On Math” by Dr. Madeline Frank teaches your child fractions and decimals, the fun easy way, through the rhythm of music, Winner of the Parent To Parent Adding Wisdom Award is available in book form, newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook.:

       com(Kindle)

       Barnes and Noble(Nook)

       iTunes


Dr. Madeline Frank’s book “Leadership on a Shoestring Budget” is available through amazon. To order your copy as an e-book on Kindle click on the following link:


“Madeline’s Midnight Melodies- Music From around the World”. This CD complements her books with a blend of dance music, gigues, tangos, ballet and favorites including “Danny Boy”, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”, Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” and others. “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” CD is now available for purchase by downloading a song, downloading the album click below:

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Wishing you and your family a happy Valentines Day from your Non-Invasive Medicine…Music Expert, Madeline

For over 30 years, Dr. Madeline Frank has helped children and adults overcome problems through Classical music. Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award-winning teacher, an amazon best-selling author, researcher, speaker, conductor, concert artist, wife, mother, and grandmother. She has discovered a scientific link between studying a musical instrument and academic and societal success. Madeline Frank earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Her education has included scholarships at the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the University of Cincinnati and she has a violin performance diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts. (C) 2024 Madeline Frank.









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