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Schrödinger in Oxford cover

"Clary's account makes for fascinating reading, not least because of its clear style and copious citation of primary sources and original scientific articles. The author provides a compelling narrative of … Schrödinger's departure in 1933 from a highly eminent position at the University of Berlin to a precarious, untenured position at Magdalen College … with political and scientific considerations deftly woven together." [Read Full Review]


Erwin Schrödinger was one of the greatest scientists of all time but it is not widely known that he was a Fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford in the 1930s. This book is an authoritative account of Schrödinger's time in Oxford by Sir David Clary, an expert on quantum chemistry and a former President of Magdalen College, who describes Schrödinger's remarkable life and scientific contributions in a language that can be understood by all. Through access to many unpublished manuscripts, the author reveals in unprecedented detail the events leading up to Schrödinger's sudden departure from Berlin in 1933, his arrival in Oxford and award of the Nobel Prize, his dramatic escape from the Nazis in Austria to return to Oxford, and his urgent flight from Belgium to Dublin at the start of the Second World War.

The book presents many acute observations from Schrödinger's wife Anny and his daughter Ruth, who was born in Oxford and became an acquaintance of the author in the last years of her life. It also includes a remarkable letter sent to Schrödinger in Oxford from Adolf Hitler, thanking him for his services to the state as a professor in Berlin. Schrödinger's intense interactions with other great scientists who were also refugees during this period, including Albert Einstein and Max Born, are examined in the context of the chaotic political atmosphere of the time. Fascinating anecdotes of how this flamboyant Austrian scientist interacted with the President and Fellows of a highly traditional Oxford College in the 1930s are a novel feature of the book.

A gripping and intimate narrative of one of the most colourful scientists in history, Schrödinger in Oxford explains how his revolutionary breakthrough in quantum mechanics has become such a central feature in 21st century science.

Sample Chapter(s)
Preface and Personal Acknowledgements
Chapter 1: Schrödinger’s Breakthrough

  • About the Author
  • Preface and Personal Acknowledgements
  • Schrödinger's Breakthrough
  • To Oxford and the Nobel Prize
  • Life and Work in Oxford
  • Return to Austria and Escape Back to Oxford
  • To Dublin and Final Days in Vienna
  • Schrödinger's Legacy
  • References
  • Bibliography
  • Permissions
  • Index
Readership: Science students and academics, especially those in physics, chemistry and biology. The general public interested in science, history of science, and the lives of great scientists and Nobel Laureates. Historians of the 1930s and the Second World War.

Free Access
  • Pages:i–xv

Free Access
CHAPTER ONE: Schrödinger’s Breakthrough
  • Pages:1–59

No Access
CHAPTER TWO: To Oxford and the Nobel Prize
  • Pages:60–113

No Access
CHAPTER THREE: Life and Work in Oxford
  • Pages:114–181

No Access
CHAPTER FIVE: To Dublin and Final Days in Vienna
  • Pages:251–335

No Access
CHAPTER SIX: Schrödinger’s Legacy
  • Pages:336–358

Free Access
  • Pages:359–403

"This is a biography of a towering figure in the most marvellous century of science, just past. The delight of this book is to share with its reader the miracle of Schrödinger's equation in which it was revealed how solid matter partakes of the properties of waves. The reader will learn that even the most solitary scientist depends on the brilliance of his colleagues, and also on the existence of great centres of learning."

John Polanyi FRS
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 1986

"This readable book by David Clary has in it much more than an informed account of this remarkable physicist's three years at Magdalen College. Schrödinger wrote his paper on entanglement in that period, and in every sense of the word, his own life was entangled in the fates of Germany, the UK, Austria and Ireland. We are masterfully led through Schrödinger's story, and learn how the man who had no place for chemistry in his philosophy of life gave us the equation that has become 'the instrument for treating all problems in atomic and molecular physics'."

Roald Hoffmann ForMemRS
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 1981

"A trove of glittering insights into the life and research of the quantum pioneer Erwin Schrödinger, one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, from David Clary, who is an ideal guide to his extraordinary mind, having spent his life solving Schrödinger's revolutionary equation and having been President of Magdalen College Oxford, where Schrödinger once studied entanglement (today hugely influential in quantum computing), and pondered the meaning of hypothetical cats that were neither alive nor dead."

Roger Highfield OBE FRSB FMedSci
Author and Science Director of the Science Museum Group

"Like his friend Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger 'was an independent and informal character. He did not like traditions, rules and formal dress ... He was a lone scientist and not a collaborator', comments Schrödinger in Oxford. No wonder Schrödinger had mixed feelings about Oxford and its university — like Einstein — and decided not to remain there. In leading Oxford scientist David Clary, Schrödinger has encountered the ideal historian: deeply knowledgeable about Schrödinger's science, but also fully aware of the complex international politics of this crucial decade before the second world war in which this great physicist was intricately entangled."

Andrew Robinson
Author of
Einstein on the Run: How Britain Saved the World's Greatest Scientist

"David Clary masterfully weaves the complexities, eccentricities, and genius of Erwin Schrödinger into a compelling read. At its center is a clear and insightful explication of Schrödinger's science surrounded by his multiple friendships with other refugee scientists and students who enriched both his contributions and his opportunities during and after his years in Oxford. A fascinating journey through quanta, personalities, and conflicts."

Nancy Greenspan
Biographer of Max Born and Klaus Fuchs

"Clary's account makes for fascinating reading, not least because of its clear style and copious citation of primary sources and original scientific articles. The author provides a compelling narrative of … Schrödinger's departure in 1933 from a highly eminent position at the University of Berlin to a precarious, untenured position at Magdalen College … with political and scientific considerations deftly woven together." [Read Full Review]


"He expands in unheard of detail not only on Schrödinger's life, his science, his now and then troublesome interaction with colleagues and friends, yet most importantly the author calls up vividly the general economical, the social, and the political atmosphere of Schrödinger's lifetime. The author tells much more than the personal story of a science genius." [Read Full Review]

Gebhard Grübl
University of Innsbruck, Germany

"Don't expect lots of details on quantum physics – this is very much a biography, rather than a science book with biographical sprinklings. However, what you will find is a level of detail that simply can't be found elsewhere." [Read Full Review]

Popular Science

"… His look at Schrödinger's life and career is more history book than science text. Clary foregoes mathematical equations and explanations of theory and concentrates instead on how, despite the dire state of the world during the Nazi onslaught, Schrödinger was able to build an international life of science. He mixed with other scientific luminaries of the early twentieth century including Albert Einstein, Max Born, Max Planck, and Paul Dirac …"

Rebecca Coffey

"Authored by the physical chemist David C Clary, this book focuses primarily on Erwin Schrödinger's time at the University of Oxford from 1933 to 1936 and in 1938 — after he was twice forced to emigrate from the European continent. Using quotations from correspondence between Schrödinger and other émigré scientists like Max Born, Albert Einstein, and Francis Simon, Clary outlines well the travails of the refugee scholar …"

Physics Today

"Schrödinger in Oxford does provide plenty of raw material for historians, with extensive extracts from letters to, from or about Schrödinger. Clary benefited in this regard from archival letters obtained with permission from Schrödinger's daughter Ruth Braunizer, with whom the author talked before her death in 2018 aged 84 …"

Physics World

"This book is a detailed biography of Erwin Schrödinger's career, in whose life the University of Oxford played a decisive role. Reading this book turns into an entertaining pleasure. One learns numerous new details, which in their abundance, are by no means confusing, but also offer new insights into the overall context." [Read Full Review]

Alois Kernbauer
University of Graz

"A new biography that offers much more than the title Schrödinger in Oxford, chosen with British understatement, promises. Even if the focus of the 400-page work is on the time in England from November 1933 to September 1936, it provides a successful and easily readable overview of the entire life and work of the physicist, with new research results and finally dedicates toSchrödinger's scientific legacy." [Read Full Review]


Sir David Clary FRS is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, UK where he was also President of Magdalen College from 2005–2020, Schrödinger's college in Oxford. He is an elected Fellow of many academies including the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Arts, the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science. He was President of the Faraday Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry from 2006–2009. From 2009–2013, he was the first Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In 2016, he was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to international science.

Sir David is a theoretical chemist recognised for his pioneering work on the quantum dynamics of chemical reactions. He has published over 350 papers on developing new theories and computational methods for solving Schrödinger's equation for molecular problems. He was Editor of Chemical Physics Letters from 2000–2020 and a Reviewing Editor of Science from 2003–2016. He has won many prizes for his research including the Royal Society of Chemistry Meldola, Marlow, Corday-Morgan, Tilden, Polanyi, Chemical Dynamics, Liversidge and Spiers awards, and the Medal of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science.