First of All, I doubt there has ever been any new idea that did not involve intuition.

However, most textbooks suggest that the quantization idea was just a mathematical trick, that Planck introduced to be able to drive his distribution law. Is this the only right way to think about it? If not, did Planck really have intuition behind quantization idea?

  • $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of What was different about Planck's quantization of light compared to Einstein's? $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Conifold I read this answer before. I'm asking if Planck had intuition regarding the quantization idea, or it was just a math trick to drive his law. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ Of course we can not read Planck's mind, but "This was purely a formal assumption and I really did not give it much thought" seems to suggest the latter very clearly. In any case, we can hardly know Planck's mind better than Planck did. As for the "right way to think", that is not really a history question. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Conifold of course we can't do so. But, I thought that there could be a historical hints in his memoirs, or those of his contemporaries. By the way, this question was originally within physics stack exchange, but someone moved it to here! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 0:33
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    $\begingroup$ Now this is really an exact duplicate of Max Planck and energy quantization idea (which itself is adequately answered at How did Planck derive the black body radiation formula without using the Bose statistics?) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 0:58

1 Answer 1


Quantization first appears in Balmer's equation for the line spectrum of hydrogen, although he didn't assign any physical significance to it.

In 1888, Rydberg refined the equation as

$\frac{1}{\lambda} = 1.097*10^7( \frac{1}{2^2} - \frac{1}{n^2})$

where n is an integer.

My feeling is that idea of quantization was floating around and formalized by Planck.


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