Historical and Social Aspects of Physics

Ga naar: navigatie, zoeken


Samenvattingen beschikbaar. Klik hier om de samenvattingen te bekijken

Information about the exam

Oral(in English)with written preparation.

(Dutch speaking students have the right to demand some weeks in advance that your exam is in Dutch.)

  • Preperation for about 30 min (or untill someone is ready).
  • 10 minutes oral exam (in the same room)

PS: Don't be surprised if there are 20 or more students taking the exam at the same time.


09-06-2020 (12:00-15:00)

Due to the measures against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 the exam was written instead of oral with written preparation. The exam lasted three hours, but a big majority of the students finished their exam in an hour and a half.

Professor Vanpaemel gave one page as the ideal length for the answer to a single question, and the answer was not allowed to exceed two pages.

  • Niels Bohr did not publish a lot during his life, and his lectures were often chaotic and difficult to follow. Explain and discuss why and how he was important for the development of physics.
  • The Basalla model explains how science and physics develop in non-Western countries, but it does not match with reality. Choose a non-Western country and discuss how physics research developed.

12-06-2018 (NM)

  • What is Big Science and how did it influence physics?
  • How did Indian science benefit (or not) from colonialism?

22-06-2015 (VM)

  • What important discoveries at the end of the 19th century boosted physics early 1900? Explain.
  • Why was Einstein both representative for other physicists and atypical? Explain.

22-06-2015 (NM)

  • Why is it that the developments in the area of nuclear physics took place at such a high pace in the 1930's?
  • Explain how the evolution of physics in a non-Western country of your choice has been influenced by politics and social factors.


  • Explain the Forman thesis and how it relates to the development of quantum mechanics.
  • How did the increase of money for physicists after WW II affect the discipline?

10-06-2014 (VM)

  • The first Solvay conference was a major turning point in the history of physics. Explain.
  • Would you consider the transformation of physics between 1900 and 1950 as constituting a revolution? Explain.

June 2013

'Not the exact formulation'

  • For some people the quantum revolution happened in the 1920s. Explain what happened and why you can call this a revolution.
  • Doing physics changed after WW2, what where the differences before and after?

June, 11th 2012

'Not the exact formulation'

  • Explain the significance of Heisenbergs matrices formulation in the Quantum theory.
  • After the second World War things had changed for the physicist. What were the negative reactions?

June, 10th 2011

I just write the questions down from my memory, so formulation is not exact, this is how I recall the essence of the questions.

  • Many textbooks refer to 1900 as the year of the quantum revolution. Yet even in 1920, most physicists held to classical principles. What describes the advent of the 'revolution' in physics? What was the importance of classical concepts for contemporary physicists to understand quantum physics?
  • Social and political aspects had a lot of influence of the development of physics. Show this with two examples.
  • The Manhattan project was of huge importance for physics. Explain how this is a hallmark for post-WWII physics.


  • By some people the "revolution" in physics came as a surprise, for others it was the consequence of what happened before. Explain.
  • Schrodinger and Heisenberg had a different formulation of QM. Explain this in the historical and social context.
  • Who was Bush and what was his role in science policy?