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Note on Exchange Phenomena in the Thomas Atom

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2008

P. A. M. Dirac
St John's College
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For dealing with atoms involving many electrons the accurate quantum theory, involving a solution of the wave equation in many-dimensional space, is far too complicated to be practicable. One must therefore resort to approximate methods. The best of these is Hartree's method of the self-consistent field. Even this, however, is hardly practicable when one has to deal with very many electrons, so that one then requires a still simpler and rougher method. Such a method is provided by Thomas' atomic model, in which the electrons are regarded as forming a perfect gas satisfying the Fermi statistics and occupying the region of phase space of lowest energy. This region of phase space is assumed to be saturated, with two electrons with opposite spins in each volume (2πh)3, and the remainder is assumed to be empty. Although this model hitherto has not been justified theoretically, it seems to be a plausible approximation for the interior of a heavy atom and one may expect it to give with some accuracy the distribution of electric charge there.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge Philosophical Society 1930


* Hartree, , Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc., Vol. 24, p. 111 (1927).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Thomas, , Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc., Vol. 23, p. 542 (1926)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Fermi, , Zeit. für Phys., Vol. 48, p. 73 (1928).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

h denotes Planck's constant divided by 2π.

§ Fock, , Zeit. für Phys., Vol. 61, p. 126 (1930).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

The integral sign is understood to include a summation over both states of spin.