A quantum leap across disciplines

20th-century events examined during centennial retrospective

Unlike the opening of the current century, which has people feeling uneasy about rapidly advancing technology and the social and ethical questions accompanying it, the beginning of the 1900s were met by a faith in progress and an optimism that the new century would bring rising prosperity and opportunity. Lively modernist movements in painting, music and literature were redefining the form and content of the arts. The scientific community was soon to produce radical changes in the worldview that we associate with quantum theory and relativity.

The events of the early 1900s are the focus of a year-long celebration at the university. In October the physics department marked the 100th anniversary of quantum theory by hosting a two-day symposium, "One Hundred Years of the Quantum: From Max Planck to Entanglement." The international conference brought together physicists, historians and philosophers of science to discuss historical perspectives on Planck's work, 20th-century debates about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, and new topics in quantum physics, including quantum optics and quantum computing.

Max Planck was also an accomplished pianist, and earlier in October the music department presented "Music 1900," a concert of compositions from around the year 1900, with remarks about the music, its historical and cultural significance, and the reactions of the audiences who first heard it. The first half of the concert included pieces by Brahms and Strauss, composers Planck admired and whose works he played, according to Keith Ward, director of Puget Sound's School of Music. The second half of the program was devoted to visionary compositions by pioneers such as Schoenberg, Berg and Stravinsky.

Puget Sound's theater department also got into the act with a production of Anton Chekhov's "Three Sisters," which premiered at the Moscow Art Theater in 1901.

The Centennial Retrospective will continue in the spring with events devoted to literature and art history.