Louis de Broglie and the Wave Nature of the Electron

Barry R. Masters

Louis de Broglie was a Frenchman of noble birth who many believed would become a great statesman or diplomat. Instead, he changed our understanding of how the universe works by developing a theory for the wave-particle duality of electrons.


figureLouis de Broglie, 1929

The idea that matter can exhibit the properties of both particles and waves is one of the major tenets of quantum mechanics—but it took centuries to arrive upon. Einstein paved the way in 1909 by proposing that wave-particle duality was a key property of light. This united competing theories dating back to the 1600s, when Christiaan Huygens hypothesized that light was made up of waves, while Newton argued that it consisted of particles.

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