In general chemistry texts, the electron configurations are sometimes shown in boxes with up and down arrows to show the concept of paired spins. My impression for years was that Hund used such diagrams. However, flipping through his book Linienspektren und Periodisches System der Elemente which used the s,p, d, f notation in a modern way, there is no such use of box diagrams with up and down arrows. Does anyone know who introduced this so-called box notation? Thanks.

box notation


This image is from Atomic Spectra and Atomic Structure by Gerhard Herzberg, ‎John William Tranter Spinks - 1944. It does not really have boxes (just boxes of a table), but spin +1/2 and spin -1/2 are shown as arrows. Of course, I am not claiming this is the first usage, just that in 1944 it existed.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Karsten, I think then it must be somewhere between 1944 (before Herzberg's) and 1925 (after Pauli). I will also check Sommerfeld's book. It is available on Internet Archives. $\endgroup$ – M. Farooq Aug 27 '19 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ As an aside, the German wikipedia uses parallel and anti-parallel spin (with respect to the z-axis) instead of spin up and spin down. If that was common, you might not use an upward arrow for spin +1/2. On the other hand, if you say "spin up" or consider the direction of angular momentum, an upward arrow would be a natural notation. Also, notice that Herzberg uses arrows while nowadays harpoons are more common. $\endgroup$ – Karsten Theis Aug 27 '19 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ Could you share the German wikipedia link? I am curious to see that version. What is traditionally taught in German, up and down or the German wiki style? Harpoon is rather new. I would be looking for arrows. $\endgroup$ – M. Farooq Aug 27 '19 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ I don't teach in German, and I forget the nomenclature we used when I took the course. Here is the Wikipedia article section: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$ – Karsten Theis Aug 27 '19 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with anonymous forums like these is that there is no check. It could be a high school dropout or Dirac's spirit or a future Einstein downvoting your answer and my question too. You never know. That is why downvote should have a reason box for a healthy discussion. ResearchGate deleted the downvote option altogether. $\endgroup$ – M. Farooq Aug 30 '19 at 12:21

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