Note that for atoms with multiple electrons, 2s/2p shifts are expected: Why does 2s have less energy than 1s if they have the same principal quantum number?. The surprise was observing that on hydrogen which only has one electron.
Initial experiment: Lamb-Retherford experiment.
On the return from the train from the Shelter Island Conference in New York, Hans Bethe managed to do a non-relativistic calculation of the Lamb shift. He then published as The Electromagnetic Shift of Energy Levels by Hans Bethe (1947) which is still paywalled as of 2021, fuck me: journals.aps.org/pr/abstract/10.1103/PhysRev.72.339 by Physical review.
The Electromagnetic Shift of Energy Levels Freeman Dyson (1948) published on Physical review is apparently a relativistic analysis of the same: journals.aps.org/pr/abstract/10.1103/PhysRev.73.617 also paywalled as of 2021.
TODO how do the infinities show up, and how did people solve them?
www.mdpi.com/2624-8174/2/2/8/pdf History and Some Aspects of the Lamb Shift by G. Jordan Maclay (2019)
This experiment was fundamental to the development of quantum electrodynamics. As mentioned at Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics by James Gleick (1994) chapter "Shrinking the infinities", before the experiment, people already knew that trying to add electromagnetism to the Dirac equation led to infinities using previous methods, and something needed to change urgently. However for the first time now the theorists had one precise number to try and hack their formulas to reach, not just a philosophical debate about infinities, and this led to major breakthroughs. The same book also describes the experiment briefly as:
Willis Lamb had just shined a beam of microwaves onto a hot wisp of hydrogen blowing from an oven.
It is two pages and a half long.
Previous less experiments had already hinted at this effect, but they were too imprecise to be sure.
Richard Feynman Quantum Electrodynamics Lecture at University of Auckland (1979) mentions it several times.
Apparently first published at the Magnetic Moment of the Electron by Kusch and Foley (1948).
journals.aps.org/pr/abstract/10.1103/PhysRev.74.250, paywall as of 2021.
Advanced quantum mechanics by Freeman Dyson (1951) mentions:
A Relativistic Quantum Theory of a Finite Number of Particles is Impossible.
- physics.stackexchange.com/questions/44188/what-is-the-relativistic-particle-in-a-box/44309#44309 says:
By several reasons explained in textbooks, the Dirac equation is not a valid wavefunction equation. You can solve it and find solutions, but those solutions cannot be interpreted as wavefunctions for a particle