1932 Nobel Prize in Physics

circa 1933: German theoretical physicist, Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901 - 1976). He won the 1933 Nobel prize for physics. Keystone/Getty Images

The Nobel Prize in Physics for 1932 was awarded to Werner Heisenberg "for the creation of quantum mechanics, the application of which has, inter alia, led to the discovery of the allotropic forms of hydrogen."

An Unusual Nobel

The 1932 Nobel Committee for Physics decided that none of the nominees met the criteria that had been laid out in Alfred Nobel's will, so they chose not to award a prize that year.

The rules under which they were structured made that possible, and gave them the ability to delay the award for a year. So the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics was not actually announced or awarded until a year later, in 1933, alongside the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Science

Working together with physicists such as Niels Bohr, Heisenberg was at the front lines of the growing field of quantum physics. While examining the Bohr model of the atom, Heisenberg made an incredible achievement of formulating the structure of mathematical equations that could describe these systems. The basis was that instead of using ordinary numbers, physicists should instead describe these as a set of numbers describing the various properties. His friend and advisor Max Born realized that pure mathematics had a tool for this: the matrix.

Heisenberg published his theory at the age of 23 in 1927, and it was later used successfully in determining properties and behavior of the hydrogen atom correctly.

It was for this work that he received the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics.