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Einstein and the Quantum by A. Douglas Stone

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CHAPTER 1

“AN ACT OF DESPERATION”

On the evening of Friday, October 19, 1900, Max Planck, the world’s leading expert on the science of heat, was experiencing a physicist’s worst nightmare. Little more than a year earlier, he had staked his considerable reputation on a theory that purported to solve the outstanding problem of his field: the relationship between heat and light. Tonight at this meeting of the German Physical Society, the hall filled by the men who had been Planck’s closest colleagues for over a decade, another scientist would announce publicly what Planck already knew—that the theory he had worked on for the past five years was almost certainly in error. This theory, which built on the work of his close friend Wilhelm Wien, was ...

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