The quantum defect: Early history and recent developments

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The notion of the quantum defect is important in atomic and molecular spectroscopy and also in unifying spectroscopy with collision theory. In the latter context, the quantum defect may be viewed as an ancestor of the phase shift. However, the origin of the term "quantum defect" does not seem to be explained in standard textbooks. It occurred in a 1921 paper by Schrödinger, preceding quantum mechanics, yet giving the correct meaning as an index of the short-range interactions with the core of an atom. We present the early history of the quantum-defect idea, and sketch its recent developments. © 1997 American Association of Physics Teachers.

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American Journal of Physics

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