Erwin Schrödinger was not a morning person

Erwin Schrodinger on the Beach

Erwin Schrödinger may have been a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. But even winning a Nobel doesn’t mean you have to be a morning person.

Schrödinger’s wife, Annemarie, said Erwin didn’t feel inspired in the early hours of the day. As she recalled in an interview:

“He was not an early riser. He couldn’t work in the mornings at all. As far as that goes, it went that way in Berlin. The Planck lectures — as you know, it was thirty or forty years ago that Planck was in Berlin — were given in the morning from nine to ten. When he got this very, very honorable call to Berlin, he wrote first thing and said, ‘I’m very sorry, but I can’t keep the lecture hours because I can’t work in the morning.’”

Schrödinger’s dislike of working in the mornings wasn’t because he was sleeping in, however. Annemarie said he occasionally weaved, sculpted, and drew. That’s confirmed in Schrödinger: Life And Thought, though sometimes there were darker reasons for his hating the morning. During World War I, he was too depressed by the conflict (and various love affairs) to get out of bed. He also occasionally met with lovers or recovered from a late night out.

However, there’s at least one story of Schrödinger in the morning that’s more inspirational for physicists. It hints that Schrödinger could work in the mornings, as long as he was out of the office.

A student recalled that in the early 20s, Schrödinger liked to go to the beach in the mornings. When he was there, he had an interesting occupation. One student observed:

In summertime when it was warm enough we went to the bathing beach on the Lake of Zurich, sat with our own notes on the grass and watched this lean man. [He was] in bathing trunks writing his calculations before us on an improvised blackboard which we had brought along. At the time few people came to the bathing beach in the morning and those that did watched us from a discreet distance and wondered what that man was writing on the blackboard!

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