Louis de Broglie: Biography, Experiment & Theory

Instructor: Michael Blosser

Michael has a Masters in Physics and a Masters in International Development. He has over 5 years of teaching experience, teaching Physics, Math, and English classes.

This lesson will introduce the reader to the famous physicist Louis de Broglie. We'll explore his personal life, his career, and his scientific contributions to the field of physics.

Louis de Broglie: An Overview

''The actual state of our knowledge is always provisional and... there must be, beyond what is actually known, immense new regions to discover.'' -Louis de Broglie

Louis de Broglie
Louis de Broglie

Louis de Broglie is a famous physicist, mostly known for his contributions to the field of quantum mechanics in physics. Quantum mechanics is the study of the physics of the behavior of particles at the atomic and subatomic level. Since its birth in the early 20th century, quantum mechanics has been one of the most mysterious and exciting branches in physics in which its study and research has produced some of our modern inventions, such as the computer, personal electronics, and the laser, among other things. This lesson will examine the experiments and theories of Louis de Broglie that led to his groundbreaking contributions while also exploring his personal life.

Childhood and Early Life

Louis de Broglie was born on the 15th of August 1892 in Dieppe, France to an aristocratic French family. Louis obtained a degree in history at the distinguished Sorbonne University in France in 1910 but soon his attention turned to the natural sciences, obtaining a degree in physics in 1913. Louis de Broglie's brother Maurice was also a physicist who undertook experimental atomic physics experiments in a homemade laboratory at their family's mansion.

However, Louis was more drawn to the theoretical side of physics and gravitated to the field of atomic physics after hearing from his brother about the work being done by the German physicists Max Planck and Albert Einstein. Louis de Broglie served during World War I under the French army in 1914 at the radio tower in the Eiffel Tower. It was there that he took a strong interest in the technicality of physics.

Career and Scientific Contributions

After occasionally working with his brother Maurice in his atomic physics laboratory, Louis de Broglie shattered the world of physics and quantum mechanics when he published his doctorate thesis, Recherches sur la théorie des quanta (Research on the Theory of the Quanta) in 1924. In this thesis, de Broglie postulated the wave nature of electrons and the proposal of wave-particle duality.

Up until his findings, the electrons were seen as only behaving like particles. His research found that in terms of physical properties, particles sometimes acted like particles and sometimes they acted like waves; thus, the 'duality'.

Louis de Broglie's theory suggested that any particle or object that was moving also has an associated wave. Albert Einstein supported de Broglie's theory, even though de Broglie had developed this theory without any backing from experiments. It wasn't until 1927 that de Broglie's theory was experimentally proven by scientists Lester Germer and Clinton Davisson, only a few years after de Broglie published this radical theory. What became known as the de Broglie hypothesis led to the birth of wave mechanics, which became an essential branch in physics.

Due to this discovery, Louis de Broglie was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1929. After earning his doctorate of physics at the Sorbonne, he was appointed to professor of theoretical physics there. Louis de Broglie stayed at that position until his retirement in 1962.

Later Life & Death

''The history of science shows that the progress of science has constantly been hampered by the tyrannical influence of certain conceptions that finally came to be considered as dogma. For this reason, it is proper to submit periodically to a very searching examination, principles that we have come to assume without any more discussion.'' -Louis de Broglie

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