Wolfgang Pauli

Wolfgang Pauli

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Credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Wolfgang Pauli (1900-58), Austrian-Swiss physicist who worked on quantum mechanics. Pauli described the exclusion principle now named after him, in 1924. This states that each electron in an atom has a unique set of quantum numbers, or quantum state. He put forward a fourth quantum number, s, to define the spin of an electron. The Pauli exclusion principle explains the main features of the periodic table of elements and of the structure of atoms. He won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1945 for this work. Pauli also postul- ated that a very light neutral particle carried away the "missing" energy of beta radioactive decay. The neutrino was first observed in 1956.

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