The Solvay Conferences (French: Congrès Solvay) have been devoted to preeminent unsolved problems in both physics and chemistry. They began with the historic invitation-only 1911 Solvay Conference on Physics, considered a turning point in the world of physics, and are ongoing.[1]

Photograph of the first conference in 1911 at the Hotel Metropole
Seated (L–R): W. Nernst, M. Brillouin, E. Solvay, H. Lorentz, E. Warburg, J. Perrin, W. Wien, M. Curie, and H. Poincaré.
Standing (L–R): R. Goldschmidt, M. Planck, H. Rubens, A. Sommerfeld, F. Lindemann, M. de Broglie, M. Knudsen, F. Hasenöhrl, G. Hostelet, E. Herzen, J. H. Jeans, E. Rutherford, H. Kamerlingh Onnes, Albert Einstein and P. Langevin.

Since the success of 1911, they have been organised by the International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry, founded by the Belgian industrialist Ernest Solvay in 1912 and 1913, and located in Brussels. The institutes coordinate conferences, workshops, seminars, and colloquia. Recent Solvay Conferences entail a three year cycle: the Solvay Conference on Physics followed by a gap year, followed by the Solvay Conference on Chemistry.[1]

The 1st Solvay Conference on Biology titled "The organisation and dynamics of biological computation" is scheduled for April 2024.[1]

Notable Solvay conferences edit

First conference edit

Hendrik Lorentz was chairman of the first Solvay Conference on Physics, held in Brussels from 30 October to 3 November 1911.[2] The subject was Radiation and the Quanta. This conference looked at the problems of having two approaches, namely classical physics and quantum theory. Albert Einstein was the second youngest physicist present (the youngest one was Lindemann). Other members of the Solvay Congress were experts including Marie Curie, Ernest Rutherford and Henri Poincaré (see image for attendee list).

Third conference edit

The third Solvay Conference on Physics was held in April 1921, soon after World War I. Most German scientists were barred from attending. In protest at this action, Albert Einstein, although he had renounced German citizenship in 1901 and become a Swiss citizen (in 1896, he renounced his German citizenship, and remained officially stateless before becoming a Swiss citizen in 1901),[3][4] declined his invitation to attend the conference and publicly renounced any German citizenship again. Because anti-Semitism had been on the rise, Einstein accepted the invitation by Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the president of the World Zionist Organization, for a trip to the United States to raise money.[5][6]

Fourth conference edit

The fourth Solvay Conference on Physics was held in 1924. These conferences, supported by the King of Belgium, had become the leading international gathering for the discussion of the very latest developments in physics. The subject was "The electrical conductivity of metals and related topics". Scientists based in Germany and Austria were not invited to this Solvay meeting due to the tensions still prevailing after the First World War. So there was no Planck, Einstein, Sommerfeld or Born.[7]

Fifth conference edit

Perhaps the most famous conference was the fifth Solvay Conference on Physics, which was held from 24 to 29 October 1927. The subject was Electrons and Photons and the world's most notable physicists met to discuss the newly formulated quantum theory. The leading figures were Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Seventeen of the 29 attendees were or became Nobel Prize winners, including Marie Curie who, alone among them, had won Nobel Prizes in two separate scientific disciplines.[8] The anti-German prejudice that had prevented Einstein and others from attending the Solvay conferences held after the First World War had melted away. Essentially all of those names who had contributed to the recent development of the quantum theory were at this Solvay Conference, including Bohr, Born, de Broglie, Dirac, Heisenberg, Pauli and Schrodinger. Heisenberg commented:[9]

"Through the possibility of exchange between the representatives of different lines of research, this conference has contributed extraordinarily to the clarification of the physical foundations of the quantum theory. It forms, so to speak, the outward completion of the quantum theory."

 Auguste PiccardÉmile Henriot (chemist)Paul EhrenfestÉdouard HerzenThéophile de DonderErwin SchrödingerJules-Émile VerschaffeltWolfgang PauliWerner HeisenbergR.H. FowlerLéon BrillouinPeter DebyeMartin KnudsenLawrence BraggHendrik Anthony KramersPaul DiracArthur ComptonLouis, 7th duc de BroglieMax BornNiels BohrIrving LangmuirMax PlanckMarie CurieHendrik LorentzAlbert EinsteinPaul LangevinCharles Eugene GuyeCharles Thomson Rees WilsonOwen Willans Richardson
Fifth conference participants, 1927. Institut International de Physique Solvay in Leopold Park.

Solvay conferences on physics edit

No Year Title Translation Chair
1 1911 La théorie du rayonnement et les quanta The theory of radiation and quanta Hendrik Lorentz (Leiden)
2 1913 La structure de la matière The structure of matter
3 1921 Atomes et électrons Atoms and electrons
4 1924 Conductibilité électrique des métaux et problèmes connexes Electric conductivity of metals and related problems
5 1927 Electrons et photons Electrons and photons
6 1930 Le magnétisme Magnetism Paul Langevin (Paris)
7 1933 Structure et propriétés des noyaux atomiques Structure & properties of the atomic nucleus
8 1948 Les particules élémentaires Elementary particles Lawrence Bragg (Cambridge)
9 1951 L'état solide The solid state
10 1954 Les électrons dans les métaux Electrons in metals
11 1958 La structure et l'évolution de l'univers The structure and evolution of the universe
12 1961 La théorie quantique des champs Quantum field theory
13 1964 The Structure and Evolution of Galaxies J. Robert Oppenheimer (Princeton)
14 1967 Fundamental Problems in Elementary Particle Physics Christian Møller (Copenhagen)
15 1970 Symmetry Properties of Nuclei Edoardo Amaldi (Rome)
16 1973 Astrophysics and Gravitation
17 1978 Order and Fluctuations in Equilibrium and Nonequilibrium Statistical Mechanics Léon Van Hove (CERN)
18 1982 Higher Energy Physics
19 1987 Surface Science F. W. de Wette (Austin)
20 1991 Quantum Optics Paul Mandel [de] (Brussels)
21 1998 Dynamical Systems and Irreversibility Ioannis Antoniou[10] (Brussels)
22 2001 The Physics of Communication
23 2005 The Quantum Structure of Space and Time David Gross (Santa Barbara)
24 2008 Quantum Theory of Condensed Matter Bertrand Halperin (Harvard)
25 2011 The Theory of the Quantum World David Gross
26 2014 Astrophysics and Cosmology Roger Blandford (Stanford)
27 2017 The Physics of Living Matter: Space, Time and Information in Biology Boris Shraiman (Santa Barbara)
28 2022 The Physics of Quantum Information David Gross (Santa Barbara) Peter Zoller (Innsbruck U.)
29 2023 The Structure and Dynamics of Disordered Systems David Gross (Santa Barbara) Marc Mézard (Bocconi U.) Giorgio Parisi (Sapienza U.)

Participants per year edit

The following list of participants is extracted from the proceedings of the Solvay Conferences in Physics stored in the Solvay archives [11]

1948: (scientific committee – present) Sir Lawrence Bragg, Niels Bohr, Théophile de Donder, Sir Owen Willans Richardson, Jules-Émile Verschaffelt, Hendrik Kramers (scientific committee – absent) Peter Debye, Abram Fedorovich Ioffé, Albert Einstein, Frédéric Joliot-Curie (speakers) C. F. Powell, P. Auger, Felix Bloch, Patrick Blackett, S. Bhabha, Marie-Antoinette Tonnelat on behalf of Louis de Broglie, Rudolf Peierls, Walter Heitler, Edward Teller, R. Serber, Léon Rosenfeld (additional participants) H. Casimir, J. Cockroft, P. Dee, Paul Dirac, Ferretti, O. Frisch, Oskar Klein, Leprince-Ringuet, Lise Meitner, Christian Møller, Francis Perrin, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Wolfgang Pauli, P. Scherrer, Erwin Schrödinger (auditeurs) J. Timmermans, G. Balasse, J. Errera, O. Goche, P. Kipfer, L. Flamache, M. Occhialini, Marc de Hemptinne (secrétaires) E. Stahel, J. Géhéniau, Miss Dilworth, Ilya Prigogine, L. Groven, Léon Van Hove, Yves Goldschmidt, MM Van Styvendael, Demeur, Van Isacker (administrative commission) Jules Bordet, Ernest-John Solvay, Dr F. Héger-Gilbert, E. Henriot, F. van den Dungen.

Conferences on physics gallery edit

Solvay conferences on chemistry edit

No Year Title Translation Chair
1 1922 Cinq Questions d'Actualité Five topical questions William Jackson Pope (Cambridge)
2 1925 Structure et Activité Chimique Structure and Chemical Activity
3 1928 Questions d'Actualité Topical Questions
4 1931 Constitution et Configuration des Molécules Organiques Constitution and Configuration of Organic Molecules
5 1934 L'Oxygène, ses réactions chimiques et biologiques Oxygen, and its chemical and biological reactions.
6 1937 Les vitamines et les Hormones Vitamins and Hormones Frédéric Swarts (Ghent)
7 1947 Les Isotopes Isotopes Paul Karrer (Zurich)
8 1950 Le Mécanisme de l'Oxydation The mechanism of oxidation
9 1953 Les Protéines Proteins
10 1956 Quelques Problèmes de Chimie Minérale Some Problems of Inorganic Chemistry
11 1959 Les Nucléoprotéines Nucleoproteins Alfred Ubbelohde (London)
12 1962 Transfert d'Energie dans les Gaz Energy transfer in gases
13 1965 Reactivity of the Photoexcited Organic Molecule
14 1969 Phase Transitions
15 1970 Electrostatic Interactions and Structure of Water
16 1976 Molecular Movements and Chemical Reactivity as conditioned by Membranes, Enzymes and other Molecules
17 1980 Aspects of Chemical Evolution
18 1983 Design and Synthesis of Organic Molecules Based on Molecular Recognition Ephraim Katchalski (Rehovot) & Vladimir Prelog (Zurich)
19 1987 Surface Science F. W. de Wette (Austin)
20 1995 Chemical Reactions and their Control on the Femtosecond Time Scale Pierre Gaspard (Brussels)
21 2007 From Noncovalent Assemblies to Molecular Machines Jean-Pierre Sauvage (Strasbourg)
22 2010 Quantum Effects in Chemistry and Biology Graham Fleming (Berkeley)
23 2013 New Chemistry and New Opportunities from the Expanding Protein Universe Kurt Wüthrich (ETH Zurich)
24 2016 Catalysis in Chemistry and Biology Kurt Wüthrich (ETH Zurich) & Robert Grubbs (Caltech, USA)
25 2019 Computational Modeling: From Chemistry to Materials to Biology Kurt Wüthrich (ETH Zurich) & Bert Weckhuysen (Utrecht U., The Netherlands)
26 2022 Chemistry Challenges of the 21st Century Kurt Wüthrich (ETH Zurich) & Ben Feringa (Groningen U., The Netherlands)

Conferences on chemistry gallery edit

Nobel prize winners present at Solvay Conferences 1911-1933 or recipients of a Solvay subsidy edit

The following Nobel prize-winning scientists either attended Solvay Conferences before 1934 or were recipients of a Solvay subsidy.[13] (Before 1934 seven Solvay conferences on physics and four Solvay conferences on chemistry were held.)

1902-1910 edit

H. A. Lorentz (1902), P. Zeeman (1902) - M. Curie (1903), S. Arrhenius (1903) - Lord Rayleigh (1904) - J. J. Thomson (1906) - A. A. Michelson (1907) - E. Rutherford (1908) - J. D. van der Waals (1910)

1911-1920 edit

W. Wien (1911) - V. Grignard (1912) - H. Kamerlingh Onnes (1913) - M. von Laue (1914) - W. H. Bragg (1915), W. L. Bragg (1915) - C. G. Barkla (1917) - M. Planck (1918) - J. Stark (1919) - W. Nernst (1920)

1921-1930 edit

A. Einstein (1921), F. Soddy (1921) - N. Bohr (1922), F. W. Aston (1922) - K. M. Siegbahn (1924) - J. Franck (1925), G. Hertz (1925) - J. Perrin (1926) - A. H. Compton (1927), C. T. R. Wilson (1927), H. Wieland (1927) - O. Richardson (1928) - L. de Broglie (1929)

1931-1940 edit

W. Heisenberg (1932), I. Langmuir (1932) - P. A. M. Dirac (1933), E. Schrödinger (1933) - J. Chadwick (1935), F. Joliot-Curie (1935), I. Curie (1935) - W. Debije (1936) - E. Fermi (1938), R. Kuhn (1938) - E. Lawrence (1939), L. Ruzicka (1940)

1941-1950 edit

G. de Hevesy (1943) - W. Pauli (1945) - P. Bridgman (1946) - P. Blackett (1948)

1951-1954 edit

J. D. Cockcroft (1951), E. T. Walton (1951) - M. Born (1954), W. Bothe (1954).

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Solvay Institutes". Retrieved 2024-02-11.
  2. ^ Paul Langevin and Maurice de Broglie, eds., La théorie du rayonnement et les quanta. Rapports et discussions de la réunion tenue à Bruxelles, du 30 octobre au 3 novembre 1911, sous les auspices de M. E. Solvay. Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1912. See also: The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Vol. 3: Writings 1909–1911, Doc. 26, p. 402 (English translation supplement).
  3. ^ "Albert Einstein". 16 May 2019.
  4. ^ The Age of Entanglement, Louisa Gilder, Chapter 5, 2008.
  5. ^ Einstein and the Quantum, A. Douglas Stone, Chap. 23, 2013.
  6. ^ Isaacson, Walter (2007). Einstein: His life and universe. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  7. ^ C Clary, David (2022). Schrodinger in Oxford. Singapore: World Scientific. p. 19.
  8. ^ Beenakker, Carlo. "Lorentz & the Solvay conferences". Instituut-Lorentz, Leiden University. Retrieved 18 May 2023. "H. A. Lorentz chaired the meeting with incomparable tact and unbelievable virtuosity. He speaks all three languages equally well and has a unique scientific acumen." (Albert Einstein in a letter to H. Zangger, 7 November 1911.)
  9. ^ C Clary, David (2022). Schrodinger in Oxford. Singapore: World Scientific. p. 35.
  10. ^ "Ioannis Antoniou".
  11. ^ "Solvay Institutes".
  12. ^ George Gamow, Thirty Years That Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory, ©1966, Dover Publications edition of 1985; this photo by Benjamin Couprie with names in caption is facing p. 214
  13. ^ Franklin Lambert & Frits Berends: Vous avez dit : sabbat de sorcières ? La singulière histoire des premiers Conseils Solvay, EDP Sciences – Collection : Sciences et Histoire – octobre 2019. Annexe 1, page 263.

Further reading edit

External links edit