University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy Colloquium

Thursday, September 6th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Andrew Zangwill, Georgia Institute of Technology
Subject: Walter Kohn and the Creation of Density Functional Theory
Refreshments in atrium after the Colloquium.

Today's most popular method for calculating the electronic structure of atoms, molecules, liquids, solids, and plasmas makes no use of the Schrödinger equation or the many-electron wave function. Instead, it exploits a bold hypothesis: the electron density distribution completely characterizes the ground state of a many-electron system. This hypothesis was advanced in 1964-1965 by the theoretical physicist Walter Kohn and two young postdocs. This talk traces Kohn's educational trajectory (from Nazified Vienna to an internment camp in the Canadian forest to the University of Toronto to Harvard University), his professional trajectory (from applied mathematician to nuclear physicist to solid state physicist to the inventor of density functional theory), and the circumstances which led him to win a share of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Faculty Host: Michel Janssen

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