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Concept# History of quantum field theory

Summary

In particle physics, the history of quantum field theory starts with its creation by Paul Dirac, when he attempted to quantize the electromagnetic field in the late 1920s. Heisenberg was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the creation of quantum mechanics". Major advances in the theory were made in the 1940s and 1950s, leading to the introduction of renormalized quantum electrodynamics (QED). QED was so successful and accurately predictive that efforts were made to apply the same basic concepts for the other forces of nature. By the late 1970s, these efforts successfully utilized gauge theory in the strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force, producing the modern Standard Model of particle physics.
Efforts to describe gravity using the same techniques have, to date, failed. The study of quantum field theory is still flourishing, as are applications of its methods to many physical problems. It remains one of the most vital areas of theoretical physics today, providing a common language to several different branches of physics.
Quantum field theory originated in the 1920s from the problem of creating a quantum mechanical theory of the electromagnetic field. In particular, de Broglie in 1924 introduced the idea of a wave description of elementary systems in the following way: "we proceed in this work from the assumption of the existence of a certain periodic phenomenon of a yet to be determined character, which is to be attributed to each and every isolated energy parcel".
In 1925, Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, and Pascual Jordan constructed just such a theory by expressing the field's internal degrees of freedom as an infinite set of harmonic oscillators, and by then utilizing the canonical quantization procedure to these oscillators; their paper was published in 1926. This theory assumed that no electric charges or currents were present and today would be called a free field theory.
The first reasonably complete theory of quantum electrodynamics, which included both the electromagnetic field and electrically charged matter as quantum mechanical objects, was created by Paul Dirac in 1927.

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