Mathematical Formulation of the Quantum Theory of Electromagnetic Interaction

Phys. Rev. 80, 440 – Published 1 November 1950
R. P. Feynman


The validity of the rules given in previous papers for the solution of problems in quantum electrodynamics is established. Starting with Fermi's formulation of the field as a set of harmonic oscillators, the effect of the oscillators is integrated out in the Lagrangian form of quantum mechanics. There results an expression for the effect of all virtual photons valid to all orders in e2c. It is shown that evaluation of this expression as a power series in e2c gives just the terms expected by the aforementioned rules.

In addition, a relation is established between the amplitude for a given process in an arbitrary unquantized potential and in a quantum electrodynamical field. This relation permits a simple general statement of the laws of quantum electrodynamics.

A description, in Lagrangian quantum-mechanical form, of particles satisfying the Klein-Gordon equation is given in an Appendix. It involves the use of an extra parameter analogous to proper time to describe the trajectory of the particle in four dimensions.

A second Appendix discusses, in the special case of photons, the problem of finding what real processes are implied by the formula for virtual processes.

Problems of the divergences of electrodynamics are not discussed.


  • Received 8 June 1950
  • Published in the issue dated November 1950

© 1950 The American Physical Society

Authors & Affiliations

R. P. Feynman*

  • Department of Physics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

  • *Now at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California.

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