Photons pp 39-92 | Cite as

Twelve Semantic Layers of ‘Light Quantum’ and ‘Photon’

  • Klaus HentschelEmail author


Proceeding from the introductory propositions about semantic accretion and folds or ‘convolutions’ of meaning, we now treat the conceptual history of light quanta or photons. The twelve semantic layers forming the notion are presented: (1) the particle model of light, starting with Newton into the nineteenth century; (2) light propagation having a finite high velocity; (3) the emission and absorption of light particles by matter; (4) the transfer onto matter of momentum as well as (5) of energy by light; (6) the energy-frequency proportionality E \(\sim \) v in the photoelectric effect; (7) strict energy quantization E = hv; (8) wave-particle duality, first intimated by Einstein 1909 and developed further by Louis de Broglie and others; (9) the distinction between spontaneous and induced emission, introduced by Einstein in 2 talks held 1916–17, forming the theoretical basis of the modern laser; (10) internal angular momentum (spin 1) carried by light quanta; (11) indistinguishability among light quanta, ultimately leading to Bose-Einstein statistics; (12) the photon as a virtual exchange particle of QED that thanks to its lack of mass can transport electromagnetic forces over infinitely large distances.


Light Quanta Semantic Layer Virtual Particle Exchange deBroglie Eisenstaedt 
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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section for History of Science and Technology, History DepartmentUniversity of StuttgartStuttgartGermany

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