On the occasion of Heisenberg's death, Wigner wrote an obituary in April 1976 issue of Physics Today (pp. 86-87):

Sommerfeld, an excellent teacher with a wonderful overall knowledge of his discipline, maintained close contact with the students of the institute. Although Heisenberg was apparently not one of Sommerfeld's favorite students, he received his doctorate in 1923 at the age of 22. He then went to Max Born's institute in Gottingen for one year and to Copenhagen for three years where Niels Bohr taught.

Whom did Sommerfeld prefer as student and why Heisenberg was not among those?

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    $\begingroup$ Regarding Heisenberg, I think Sommerfeld was more unsure of Heisenberg's matrix mechanics rather than being unsure of Heisenberg himself. $\endgroup$
    – nwr
    Apr 19 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know enough to write an answer. Keep in mind that Sommerfeld worked with a huge number of famous PhD students and postdocs. One claim as to favorites is found in Alexander Soifer, The Scholar and the State: In Search of Van der Waerden, Birkhauser 2015, p. 69: "[...] Peter Debye was the favorite student of the famed physicist Arnold Sommerfeld, whose later students included Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, and Hans Bethe -- all four of these Sommerfeld students would win Nobel Prizes! " $\endgroup$
    – njuffa
    Apr 19 at 8:05
  • $\begingroup$ List. $\endgroup$ Apr 20 at 2:01
  • $\begingroup$ ...and Heisenberg got Sommerfeld to quarrel with Wien .... $\endgroup$ Apr 21 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ @CosmasZachos very interesting but it only explains why Wien might have disliked Heisenberg, it does not say anything about Sommerfeld's preference, if any, for other students. Interesting nevertheless, especially this bit: "Knowing Heisenberg's reputation for controversial solutions to problems in quantum theory, his Munich mentor, Arnold Sommerfeld, suggested that he write his dissertation in the more traditional field of hydrodynamics." What might have been Heisenberg's so much controversial solutions for QM in 1923? $\endgroup$
    – hyportnex
    Apr 21 at 1:53


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