Brownian motion

In 1828 (Brown 1828), Robert Brown, a Scottish botanist, observed that a grain of pollen in water dispersed into a number of much smaller particles, each of which moved continuously and randomly (as if with a "vital force''). This motion is now called Brownian motion; it was investigated by a variety of scientists between 1828 and 1905, when Einstein - in his miraculous year - published an explanation of Brownian motion (Einstein 1956), using the atomic theory of matter as a guide. It is perhaps hard for us to believe today but, at the turn of the last century, the atomic theory of matter was still just that - considered to be an unproven theory. Fuerth (1956) gives a history of the study of Brownian motion between its report and Einstein's publication. Beginning in the 1930s, pure mathematicians got hold of the subject, and took it away from its biological and physical origins; they tend to call Brownian motion a Wiener process, after the brilliant Norbert Wiener who began to mathematize the subject.

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