The “Paul Ehrenfest Best Paper Award for Quantum Foundations” (hereafter “Ehrenfest Award”) is conferred annually, for the most significant publication in the foundations of quantum mechanics published in the five calendar years prior to the prize call. Both theoretical and experimental publications are eligible.
The aim of the award is to raise awareness for the field of quantum foundations, and to draw attention to new and interesting achievements in this area without delay. Candidate publications have to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Other than that, papers from all areas in the foundations of quantum physics, and by authors of any background, will be eligible to receive the award.
The award was named after Paul Ehrenfest (1880 – 1933), one of the trailblazers of quantum mechanics. The Austrian-Dutch theoretical physicist is perhaps best known for his theory of phase transition and the Ehrenfest theorem. His scientific body of work encompasses a wide range of areas, from statistical mechanics and the kinetic theory of matter to quantum theory, but also gravitation theory, electron theory, theory of light and magnetism. Paul Ehrenfest had the unique gift to contribute to the fundamental debate while drawing attention to critical aspects that had till then remained unnoticed. He was a close friend of Albert Einstein, who praised him for his passionate engagement for the development and future of his students. His lectures, were presented in an entertaining mix of Dutch, English and Vienna dialect, were considered brilliant. An empathic and deeply sensitive person, having repeatedly suffered from depressive episodes, he took his own life in 1933. In his farewell letter, he wrote that he had reached the limits of his scientific capability.