Julian Schwinger and the Source Theory

Resources with Additional Information

Julian S. Schwinger received the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics for his "fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles". "The theoretical achievements of Schwinger and [Richard] Feynman in the late 1940s and early 1950s ignited a revolution in quantum field theory and laid the foundations for much of the spectacular progress that has been made during the ensuing four decades in understanding the fundamental forces of nature. Although many others also contributed, it was Julian who made the initial breakthrough and led this development in its early stages. ...

Julian S. Schwinger
Courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè
Visual Archives,

Physics Today Collection

From 1943 to 1946, Schwinger was a member of the wartime staff of the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT he played a leading role in the development of the radar that was crucial to the Allied war effort. After the war, Schwinger accepted an associate professorship at Harvard and became a full professor in 1947 at age 29. Between 1948 and 1950, Schwinger published the monumental papers on quantum electrodynamics for which he later shared the Nobel Prize. In 1972, Julian moved to the Department of Physics at UCLA... .

During the late sixties he began a total reconstruction of the quantum field theory to which he had contributed so fundamentally. This new theory, which he named source theory, was his response to the failures of the then existing (operator) field theory to describe the new experimental discoveries in high energy particle physics. ... In the end there was almost no frontier of theoretical physics to which he did not make important contributions: nuclear, particle, and atomic physics, statistical mechanics, classical electrodynamics, and general relativity. ...

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Schwinger received numerous international awards and honors for his research. A member of the National Academy of Science for more than forty-five years, in 1949 he was awarded the academy's Nature of Light Prize. In 1951, Schwinger shared the first Albert Einstein Prize with mathematician Kurt Godel. The same year he received the Columbia University Medal for his work on quantum electrodynamics. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson awarded him the newly created National Medal of Science."


Resources with Additional Information

Additional information about Julian Schwinger and his research is available in full-text and on the Web.


Quantum Electrodynamics. I. A Covariant Formulation; II. Vacuum Polarization and Self-Energy; III. The Electromagnetic Properties of the Electron—Radiative Corrections to Scattering (from Physical Review 1948 - 1949)

Effect of Tensor Range in Nuclear Two-Body Problems, DOE Technical Report, November 1949

On a Phenomenological Neutron-Proton Interaction; Physical Review, Vol. 84, Issue 2: 194-203, October 15, 1951

On Angular Momentum, DOE Technical Report, January 26, 1952

The Theory of Quantized Fields. I; Physical Review, Vol. 82, Issue 6: 914-927, June 15, 1951

The Theory of Quantized Fields. II; DOE Technical Report

The Theory of Quantized Fields. III; DOE Technical Report

The Theory of Quantized Fields. IV; V; VI (from Physical Review 1953 - 1954)

Source Theory Discussion of Deep Inelastic Scattering with Polarized Particles, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Vol. 72, Issue 4: 1559–1563, April 1975


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