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The Birth of quantum logic

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By quoting extensively from unpublished letters written by John von Neumann to Garret Birkhoff during the preparatory phase (in 1935) of their ground-breaking 1936 paper that established quantum logic, the main steps in the thought process leading to the 1936 Birkhoff-von Neumann paper are reconstructed. The reconstruction makes it clear why Birkhoff and von Neumann rejected the notion of quantum logic as the projection lattice of an infinite dimensional complex Hilbert space and why they postulated in their 1936 paper that the quantum propositional system should be isomorphic to an abstract projective geometry. Looking at the paper now I see, that I forgot to say this, which should be said somewhere in the first §: That while common logics did apply to quantum mechanics, if the notion of simultaneous measurability is introduced as an auxiliary notion, we wished to construct a logical system, which applies directly to quantum mechanics - without any extraneous secondary notions like simultaneous measurability. And in order to have such a consequent, one-piece system of logics, we must change the classical class calculus of logics. (J. von Neumann to G. Birkhoff, November 21, 1935)
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Logic, Faculty of Humanities, Loránd Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary

Publication date: May 1, 2007

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