- quantum chemistry,
- chemistry-physics relations,
- Møller-Plesset theory,
- chemistry Nobel Prizes,
- sleeping beauties
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
This paper considers aspects of the chemistry-physics relationship from a historical perspective and with a focus on the entrance of quantum mechanics in twentieth-century chemistry. Traditionally, theoretical physics was widely regarded as epistemically superior to chemistry if also, from the chemists’ point of view, of little practical relevance. With the emergence of quantum chemistry in about 1930, the gulf widened as it seemed that the new discipline was more physics than chemistry. One way of investigating theoretically many-electron atoms was by means of the Hartree-Fock approximation method. The Møller-Plesset perturbation theory introduced in 1934 by a Danish and an American physicist was a refinement to the Hartree-Fock method. Although the Møller-Plesset theory was initially neglected – and is still neglected in the historiography of quantum chemistry – it came to play a most important role in later studies. Indeed, it is a prime example of what in sociological studies of science is known as a “sleeping beauty.” The paper discusses the historical context of the Møller-Plesset theory, concluding that, in a sense, its originators were “chemists without knowing it.”
- For an overview of the debate citing many references, see H. Chang in Relocating the History of Science: Essays in Honor of Kostas Gavroglu (Eds.: T. Arabatzis, J. Renn, A. Simões), Springer, New York, 2015, pp. 193-210. See also H. Kragh, Between the Earth and the Heavens: Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, World Scientific, London, 2021, pp. 151-172, on which parts of the present paper rely.
- Quoted in B. Bensaude-Vincente, Ber. Wissenschaftsgesch. 2009, 32, 365-378.
- I. Kant, Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (Ed. M. Friedman), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, p. 6.
- J. S. Rowlinson, Notes Rec. Roy. Soc. 2003, 57, 35-45.
- F. Gregory, Arch. Int. H. Sci. 1984, 34, 108-123; A. M. Duncan, Laws and Order in Eighteenth-Century Chemistry, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996.
- H. Kragh, Centaurus 2002, 44, 32-114, esp. pp. 60-69.
- H. C. Jones, Elements of Physical Chemistry, Macmillan, New York, 1902; F. P. Venable, The Study of the Atom, American Chemical Society, Easton, PA, 1904.
- Quoted in H. Kragh in Hermann von Helmholtz and the Foundations of Nineteenth-Century Science (Ed. D. Cahan), University of California Press, Berkeley, 1993, pp. 401-431, on p. 429.
- J. J. van Laar, Lehrbuch der mathematischen Chemie, J. A. Barth, Leipzig, 1901; H. A. M. Snelders, Centaurus 1986, 29, 53-71.
- H. Kragh, Ambix 1989, 36, 49-65. M. D. Gordin, A Well-Ordered Thing: Dmitrii Mendeleev and the Shadow of the Periodic Table, Basic Books, New York, 2004, pp. 217-224.
- D. I. Mendeleev, An Attempt Towards a Chemical Conception of the Ether, Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1904, p. 17.
- A. Smithells, Proc. Brit. Assoc. Adv. Sci. 1907, 469-479, and Nature 1907, 78, 352-357.
- H. E. Armstrong, Proc. Brit. Assoc. Adv. Sci. 1909, 420-454, on p. 477. See also A. Simões, K. Gavroglu in Chemical Sciences in the 20th Century (Ed. C. Reinhardt), Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2001, pp. 51-74.
- H. Kragh, Niels Bohr and the Quantum Atom: The Bohr Model of Atomic Structure 1913-1925, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012; H. Kragh, Phys. Today 2013, 66 (5), 36-41.
- Niels Bohr: Collected Works, vol. 3 (Ed. J. Rud Nielsen), North-Holland, Amsterdam, 1976, p. 240.
- M. Born, Naturwissenschaften 1920, 8, 373-382, on p. 382.
- O. Lodge, Atoms and Rays: An Introduction to Modern Views on Atomic Structure and Radiation, George H. Doran Co., New York, 1924, p. 203.
- Quoted in David Hilbert’s Lectures on the Foundations of Physics 1915-1927 (Eds. T. Sauer, U. Majer), Springer, Dordrecht, 2009, p. 209.
- R. C. Tolman, J. Opt. Soc. Am. Rev. Sci. 1922, 6, 211-228.
- A. N. Stranges, Electrons and Valence: Development of the Theory, 1900-1925, A&M University Press, College Station, TX, 1982. See also H. Kragh, Riv. Storia Scienza 1985, 2, 463-486.
- E. N. de Andrade, The Structure of the Atom, G. Bell and Sons, London, 1923, p. 239. See also T. Arabatzis, Representing Electrons: A Biographical Approach to Theoretical Entities, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2006.
- Quantum Chemistry: Classic Scientific Papers (Ed. H. Hettema), World Scientific, London, 2000, pp. 140-155. On the early development of quantum chemistry, see J. Mehra, H. Rechenberg, The Historical Development of Quantum Theory, vol. 6, Springer, New York, 2001, pp. 521-571. A full history is given in K. Gavroglu, A. Simões, Neither Physics nor Chemistry: A History of Quantum Chemistry, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2012.
- Quoted in ref. 22 (Gavroglu, Simões), p. 100.
- Unpublished lecture of 6 April 1928 quoted in B. S. Park, Brit. J. Hist. Sci. 1999, 32, 21-46.
- T. Pynchon, Introduction to Chemical Physics, Van Nostrand, New York, 1874.
- H. C. Urey, J. Chem. Phys. 1933, 1, 1-2. On this journal and the disciplinary boundaries between chemical physics and physical chemistry, see M. Jo Nye, From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry: Dynamics of Matter and Dynamics of Disciplines 1800-1950, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1993, pp. 227-261, and J. W. Servos, Physical Chemistry from Ostwald to Pauling: The Making of a Science in America, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1990, pp. 251-298.
- A. Simões, K. Gavroglu, Int. J. Quantum Chem. 2014, 114, 116-127; B. S. Park, Ann. Sci. 2003, 60, 219-247.
- C. J. Ballhausen, J. Chem. Educ. 1979, 56, 357-361; C. J. Ballhausen, Introduction to Ligand Field Theory, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1962.
- P. A. M. Dirac, Proc. Roy. Soc. A 1929, 123, 714-733, emphasis added. For the response of chemists to Dirac’s claim, see A. Simões, Phys. Perspect. 2002, 4, 253-266.
- C. F. Fischer, Douglas Rayner Hartree: His Life in Science and Computing, World Scientific, New Jersey, 2003; B. S. Park, Hist. Stud. Nat. Sci. 2009, 39, 32-62.
- J. Slater, Phys. Rev. 1928, 32, 339-348.
- V. Fock, Z. Phys. 1930, 61, 126-148.
- D. Cremer, Comp. Mol. Sci. 2011, 1, 510-530.
- Møller-Plesset theory is not mentioned in ref. 22 (Gavroglu, Simões) nor in other of the many works written on the history of quantum and computational chemistry.
- C. Møller, M. S. Plesset, Phys. Rev. 1934, 46, 618-622. Received 14 July 1934 and published 1 October the same year.
- H. Kragh, Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. 1992, 43, 299-328.
- N. Bohr to L. Page, 23 December 1934. Bohr Scientific Correspondence, Niels Bohr Archive, Copenhagen.
- See the obituary by T. Y. Wu in Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, vol. 6, National Academies Press, New York, 1993, pp. 172-174.
- Interview with Plesset by C. Bugé of 8 December 1981, online as https://oralhistories.library.caltech.edu/127/
- R. Sinatra, Nature Phys. 2015, 11, 791-796; D. B. Baker, Chem. Eng. News 1981, 59, 29-34.
- Ref. 22 (Gavroglu, Simões), pp. 224-229; L. Radom in New Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Scribner’s, New York, 2008, pp. 129-133, which includes a rare reference to the Møller-Plesset perturbation theory.
- J. S. Binkley, J. A. Pople, Int. J. Quantum Chem. 1975, 9, 229-236; J. A. Pople, J. S. Binkley, R. Seeger, Int. J. Quantum Chem. 1976, 10, 1-19; J. A. Pople, Ang. Chem. Int. Edit. 1999, 38, 1894-1902.
- A. van Raan, Scientometrics 2004, 59, 467-472.
- Q. Ke et al., P. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2015, 112, 7426-7431. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1424329112
- A. Einstein, B. Podolsky, N. Rosen, Phys. Rev. 1935, 47, 777-780.
- For a list of chemistry prizes awarded to physicists 1908-1977, see H. Kragh, Quantum Generations: A History of Physics in the Twentieth Century, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1999, p. 432.
- Rutherford to Hahn, 29 November 1908, quoted in A. S. Eve, Rutherford: Being the Life and Letters of the Rt. Hon. Lord Rutherford, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1939, p. 183. See also H. Kragh, “Chemical and other aspects of Rutherford’s nuclear atom,” J. Roy. Soc. New Zeal. 51 (2021): 513-527.
- E. McMillan, in Nobel Lectures, Chemistry 1942-1962, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1964, pp. 314-322, on p. 318. Online: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/1951/mcmillan/lecture/
- Tweet from Stanford University, 9 October 2013, see https://twitter.com/stanford/status/387913130673979392
- A. Zangwill, Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. 2014, 68, 775-848.
- Bohr to P. R. Wallace, 5 March 1953 (Møller Papers, Niels Bohr Archive, Copenhagen).