Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society

Research Article

Note on Exchange Phenomena in the Thomas Atom

P. A. M. Diraca1

a1 St John's College

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.

(Accepted May 19 1930)