The Theory of Quantized Fields. I

Phys. Rev. 82, 914 – Published 15 June 1951
Julian Schwinger


The conventional correspondence basis for quantum dynamics is here replaced by a self-contained quantum dynamical principle from which the equations of motion and the commutation relations can be deduced. The theory is developed in terms of the model supplied by localizable fields. A short review is first presented of the general quantum-mechanical scheme of operators and eigenvectors, in which emphasis is placed on the differential characterization of representatives and transformation functions by means of infinitesimal unitary transformations. The fundamental dynamical principle is stated as a variational equation for the transformation function connecting eigenvectors associated with different spacelike surfaces, which describes the temporal development of the system. The generator of the infinitesimal transformation is the variation of the action integral operator, the spacetime volume integral of the invariant lagrange function operator. The invariance of the lagrange function preserves the form of the dynamical principle under coordinate transformations, with the exception of those transformations which include a reversal in the positive sense of time, where a separate discussion is necessary. It will be shown in Sec. III that the requirement of invariance under time reflection imposes a restriction upon the operator properties of fields, which is simply the connection between the spin and statistics of particles. For a given dynamical system, changes in the transformation function arise only from alterations of the eigenvectors associated with the two surfaces, as generated by operators constructed from field variables attached to those surfaces. This yields the operator principle of stationary action, from which the equations of motion are obtained. Commutation relations are derived from the generating operator associated with a given surface. In particular, canonical commutation relations are obtained for those field components that are not restricted by equations of constraint. The surface generating operator also leads to generalized Schrödinger equations for the representative of an arbitrary state. Action integral variations which correspond to changing the dynamical system are discussed briefly. A method for constructing the transformation function is described, in a form appropriate to an integral spin field, which involves solving Hamilton-Jacobi equations for ordered operators. In Sec. III, the exceptional nature of time reflection is indicated by the remark that the charge and the energy-momentum vector behave as a pseudoscalar and pseudovector, respectively, for time reflection transformations. This shows, incidentally, that positive and negative charge must occur symmetrically in a completely covariant theory. The contrast between the pseudo energy-momentum vector and the proper displacement vector then indicates that time reflection cannot be described within the unitary transformation framework. This appears most fundamentally in the basic dynamical principle. It is important to recognize here that the contributions to the lagrange function of half-integral spin fields behave like pseudoscalars with respect to time reflection. The non-unitary transformation required to represent time reflection is found to be the replacement of a state vector by its dual, or complex conjugate vector, together with the transposition of all operators. The fundamental dynamical principle is then invariant under time reflection if inverting the order of all operators in the lagrange function leaves an integral spin contribution unaltered, and reverses the sign of a half-integral spin contribution. This implies the essential commutativity, or anti-commutativity, of integral and half-integral field components, respectively, which is the connection between spin and statistics.


  • Received 2 March 1951
  • Published in the issue dated June 1951

© 1951 The American Physical Society

Authors & Affiliations

Julian Schwinger

  • Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts


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