I read in a book just now that says:

[...] but it was not explained until the invention of quantum field theory by Richard Feynmann [sic] and others in the 1940's.

I have been under the impression that it was Paul Dirac and Hermann Weyl in the early to mid thirties who developed the foundations of QFT.

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    $\begingroup$ It's worth reading Chapter 1 of Volume 1 of Weinberg's field theory opus, to get some sense of the history of QFT. $\endgroup$ – user1504 Dec 3 '13 at 2:30
  • $\begingroup$ Got here from Hot Questions. I read the title as Who is usually credited for the creation of "Quoted For Truth"? =^_^= $\endgroup$ – Izkata Dec 3 '13 at 3:01

According to Wikipedia:

In particle physics, the history of quantum field theory starts with its creation by Paul Dirac, when he attempted to quantize the electromagnetic field in the late 1920s. [My emphasis.]

And according to Wikipedia's entry on Dirac:

He was the first to develop quantum field theory, which underlies all theoretical work on sub-atomic or "elementary" particles today, work that is fundamental to our understanding of the forces of nature. [My emphasis.]

So, it seems definitely wrong to credit Feynman with the "invention" of QFT. If one would have to give credit for that to anyone in particular, the above suggests that that should be (and is) Dirac.

Feynman's and other contributions to quantum electrodynamics are summarised here.

It seems that there is possibly another contender (than Dirac) for the title of "father of QFT": Pascual Jordan. See arXiv:0709.3812 [physics.hist-ph], pp. 12-15, e.g.,

Since this was a conference honoring Dirac, other speakers can be forgiven for declaring Dirac to be the founding father of quantum field theory.


[I]t is important to keep in mind that Jordan was virtually alone at first in recognizing the need for the extension of quantum theory to fields.

  • $\begingroup$ If I may, I would add QFT started with the correct calculation of the spontaneous emission decay rate using second quantisation formalism by Dirac. Straightforward calculations are done in his book about that. $\endgroup$ – FraSchelle Dec 2 '13 at 20:49

QFT was formulated over many decades, from the 20's to the 70's, by many people from the USA, Europe and the USSR, amongst others. Although QFT is an active research topic, QFT was demonstrated to be consistent by 't Hooft in the 70's.

Whilst particular achievements and developments are attributable to specific individuals, QFT was the result of innumerable physicists, and no sole person should be credited with having created QFT.

  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean that 't Hooft was the one who demonstrated QFT to be consistent? Just that he proved non-Abelian gauge fields were perturbatively renormalizable? (Most physicists would argue that Dirac & Jordan/Pauli's work on free fields proved that the idea was consistent.) $\endgroup$ – user1504 Dec 2 '13 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that's precisely what I meant. Although even that was the work of many, I suppose, of course including Veltman. $\endgroup$ – innisfree Dec 2 '13 at 21:24

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