Dr. G. (Guido) Bacciagaluppi

Dr. G. (Guido) Bacciagaluppi

Associate Professor
History and Philosophy of Science
+31 30 253 5621
g.bacciagaluppi@uu.nl

I am a philosopher of physics mainly working on quantum mechanics, with further interests in the philosophy of probability and the wider philosophy of science. Over the years, I have also acquired a profile as a historian of quantum mechanics specialising in the history of the foundational debates. I tend to write papers on philosophy, and books on history.

 

My work in philosophy is somewhat on the more technical side of the spectrum. I have worked on a variety of approaches in the foundations of quantum mechanics, including modal interpretations, stochastic mechanics, Everett theory, de Broglie-Bohm pilot-wave theory and spontaneous collapse theories, with a special interest in the theory of decoherence. I take no sides in the debates on the foundations of quantum mechanics, but have progressively adopted rather strong views on other topics and become a card-carrying subjectivist with regard to probability, an empiricist, and a Humean.

 

In history, I have published with Antony Valentini a well-received monograph on the 1927 Solvay conference (CUP, 2009). I am an active contributor to the renaissance of interest in Grete Hermann, in particular through a volume with Elise Crull (Springer, 2017). I am also one of the editors of the Oxford Handbook of the History of Quantum Interpretations. See below for more on these three books. I have just completed another monograph with Elise to come out with CUP, The Einstein Paradox: The debate on nonlocality and incompleteness in 1935.

 

I have lived and worked in Italy, Switzerland, England, California, Germany, France, Australia, Scotland, and now The Netherlands. Here I work at the Freudenthal Institute and am a member of the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities. I love teaching in our HPS Masters at Utrecht, and am actively helping raise the new generation of philosophers of physics.

 

I am Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal for General Philosophy of Science (together with Helmut Pulte and Thomas Reydon), as well as an associate member of IHPST and SPHERE (CNRS, Paris) and member of the Foundational Questions Institute - FQXi. I am further Book Review Editor for Foundations of Physics, have worked for Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and am on the standing committees for the two conference series U.K. and European Conferences in the Foundations of Physics (for short Foundations - which in 2018 was held in Utrecht) and New Directions in the Philosophy of Physics. I am also Chair of the History and Foundations Section of the Nederlandse Natuurkundige Vereniging (the Netherlands' Physical Society), which celebrated its 100-year jubilee in 2021, and a founding Trustee and Secretary of the Archive for Mathematical Sciences and Philosophy, which looks after 37’000 audio and video recordings of seminars and conferences in physics, mathematics and philosophy of science going back to 1973 (and growing).

 

It is a joy to be part of the wonderful community of philosophers of physics worldwide, and there are many people to whom I owe a lot professionally: Abner Shimony (who first introduced me to the foundations of quantum mechanics), other teachers at ETH Zürich (where I studied Mathematics and Physics) like Ernst Specker, Corneliu Constantinescu, Hans Primas, and Paul Feyerabend, and at Cambridge (where I did my graduate studies in HPS and in Philosophy) like Michael Redhead, Peter Lipton, and in particular Jeremy Butterfield (whom I have striven to emulate ever since as mentor and as supervisor), my colleagues Harvey Brown and Simon Saunders at Oxford, and Huw Price at Sydney (from whom I learned, respectively, about space and time, Everett, and time symmetry). There are many more, but I shall mention only three other philosophers from whom I shall never cease to learn: Wayne Myrvold, David Wallace, and the amazing Jenann Ismael.  

 

I grew up bilingual (Italian and English), and most of my education was in German. I married an Australian and my daughter spent most of her childhood in Scotland. My other great love is music, especially Schubert.

 

My Erdös number is 4:  P. Erdös → R. Schelp → S. Gudder → G. Cattaneo → G. Bacciagaluppi.

 


This is my book with Antony Valentini on the 1927 Solvay Conference. This was perhaps the most important meeting in the history of quantum theory. Contrary to popular belief, the interpretation of quantum theory was not settled at this conference, and no consensus was reached. Instead, a range of sharply conflicting views were presented and extensively discussed, including de Broglie’s pilot-wave theory, Born and Heisenberg’s quantum mechanics, and Schrödinger’s wave mechanics. The volume contains a complete translation of the original proceedings, with background essays on the three main interpretations of quantum theory presented at the conference, and an extensive analysis of the lectures and discussions in the light of current research in the foundations of quantum theory.

Grete Hermann belongs in the canon of Western philosophy. At the start of her career she produced noteworthy work on abstract algebra as Emmy Noether’s first doctoral student. From 1926 she turned to philosophy, and arguably became the most significant philosopher of physics and one of the most significant neo-Kantian philosophers of the interwar period. The second half of her career was then devoted to the cause of reconstructing the educational system in post-war Germany, besides notable contributions to ethics and politics. This book with Elise Crull combines the proceedings of a conference on Hermann that we organised at Aberdeen in 2012 with translations of her main essay on the foundations of quantum mechanics of 1935, written after an extensive stay at Leipzig with Heisenberg, and of a rediscovered manuscript of 1933 criticising arguments for the completeness of quantum mechanics.

Olival Freire is the head of the editorial team, comprising Olivier Darrigol, Thiago Hartz, Christian Joas, Alexei Kojevnikov, Osvaldo Pessoa and myself, for this handbook that provides a comprehensive review (1312pp.!) of the issues, approaches and contexts in the foundations and interpretation of quantum mechanics. I have also contributed a chapter on the 'statistical interpretation' of quantum mechanics as developed by Born, Heisenberg and von Neumann, including my analysis of von Neumann's notorious no-hidden-variables theorem.

You can read my ideas on a variety of subjects in quantum foundations in this lovely book by Max Schlosshauer, which, besides with myself, is full of interviews on quantum mechanics with lots of great people: Caslav Brukner, Jeff Bub, Arthur Fine, Chris Fuchs, GianCarlo Ghirardi, Shelly Goldstein, Daniel Greenberger, Lucien Hardy, Tony Leggett, Tim Maudlin, David Mermin, Lee Smolin, Antony Valentini, David Wallace, Anton Zeilinger, and Wojciech Zurek.

This is my forthcoming book with Elise Crull on the 1935 debate unleashed by the EPR paper. We provide a comprehensive analysis of the debate, including new insight into the positions of Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg and Schrödinger, as well as the most comprehensive collection of original sources to date. Expected from CUP later in 2024...