What were the historical problems that the second quantization solved?

My current understanding is that in re-normalisation one splits the result into a finite and a divergent part and only keeps the convergent part of the answer. But these infinities only seem to have cropped up because one second quantized the field (not sure how to prove this but seems intuitively true)... I guess I'm also asking:

Is there any indisputable evidence the field is second quantized?

  • $\begingroup$ There is an appropriate SE for this type of question. $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2019 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ Reason for downvote? $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2019 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ There is not second quantization because it is just the occupation number formalism for the first quantization. $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2019 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand your question but it is a bit undesirable to say that "one second quantized the field" because one simply quantizes the field--that is what is called the second quantization as opposed to the so-called first quantization which quantizes a classical theory of a fixed number of particles. In particular, there are no two different ways of quantizing a field so as one of which can be said the second. There are two types of classical theories: one of a fixed number of particles and one of a field--and the quantizations of them are respectively called the first and the second. $\endgroup$
    – user87745
    Mar 7, 2019 at 17:16

1 Answer 1


The Schrodinger equation describes particles, and right back at the beginnings of quantum mechanics it was an obvious question whether a field could be quantised in the same way. The first steps I know of in this direction were Born, Heisenberg and Jordan's paper Zur Quantenmechanik II in 1926, so it really does go back almost to the beginnings of quantum mechanics.

It only took a few more years for physicists to realise that a field theory could describe both fields and particles, that it could do so in a relativistic way and that particle creation and annihilation emerged naturally from a field theory. So quantum field theory was a no brainer. It was an elegant idea that described a wide range of physical phenomena.

The early problems with field theory weren't with the basic ideas. The non-interacting scalar field theory is elegant and exactly soluble. The problems were that the equations describing interacting fields were very complicated and the perturbative approaches used at the time didn't work. They produced the infinities that you allude to in your question. Renormalisation hasn't change the basic ideas. It just means we now know how to do the calculations correctly.

You ask:

Is there any indisputable evidence the field is second quantized?

and the answer is that quantum field theory is tested every day in colliders across the world and has so far proved effective at describing the behaviour of fundamental particles. So that would be a yes then.

One last comment: the term second quantisation is an unfortunate one. It's original meaning was a second method of quantisation i.e. an alternative approach to first quantisation, and not that anything is being quantised twice. Few physicists I know would use the term second quantisation because of the potential for confusion. However you will still find it being used disappointingly frequently.


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