Schrödinger at 75 - Recapturing spirit of science

There is no more fundamental question than “what is life?” but that is the very topic up for discussion in Dublin over the next two days as some of the world’s leading scientists take part in an event marking the 75th anniversary of a seminal series of lectures given here in 1943 by Erwin Schrödinger, an Austrian Nobel prize-winning physicist.

At the time, Schrödinger was director of theoretical physics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, the academic institution set up by Éamon de Valera.

His lectures, in which he proposed a description of the structure of genes as an “aperiodic crystal”, had a huge influence on the development of molecular biology and led to the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953.

Trinity College Dublin is marking the 75th anniversary of these lectures with a gathering of some of the most brilliant minds working in biology today.

Many people have heard of Pavlov’s dog but how many have heard of Schrödinger’s cat?

Not a real feline but a thought experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, devised by Schrödinger in 1935.

It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects.

We welcome those scientists to Ireland and trust that they will recapture the spirit of Schrödinger’s lectures.

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