Niels Bohr

Public domain

Niels Bohr Biography

Niels Bohr (October 7, 1885 – November 18, 1962) was a physicist. His hometown is Copenhagen, Denmark. He grew up in a family of Lutheran tradition fervently promoted by his father Christian Bohr, professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen. His mother Ellen Adler, born in a prosperous Jewish family, partners, and investors of the Danish banking, and with some influence in Parliament circles. The Bohr family had a great appreciation for intellectual issues; which allowed their children to develop in an intellectual environment.

Niels and his brother Harald studied at the same university where his father worked. They learned the scientific trends at that time in Europe, the intellectual center of the world. Niels made his doctoral thesis on the electronic theory of metals in 1911. After his doctorate, he moved to study in Manchester, under the tutelage of Ernest Rutherford, a physicist from New Zealand who classified the radioactive particles into alpha, beta, and gamma. In 1916, the Danish physicist began to work as a professor at the University of Copenhagen. Four years later, he would take the direction of new Institute of Theoretical Physics.

Working along with Rutherford and his theoretical teachings were a forceful impulse for Bohr’s intellectual and professional life. Because of this, he published his atomic model, with a novelty: the introduction of the theory of quantized orbits, based upon Planck’s quantum theory. Bohr’s theory proposes an anatomic structure in which the hydrogen atom is assumed to consist of a proton as nucleus, with a single electron moving in distinct circular or bits around it, each orbit corresponding to a specific quantized energy state: the theory was extended to other atoms. The quantum theory of the atomic nucleus, studies the electrons in each orbit and its process, it was concluded that the number of electrons increases starting from the inside to the outside. He stated in his model, that electrons could pass from an outer or an outer orbit, thanks to the emission of a photon of discrete energy.

Niels achieves a Nobel Prize in Physics thanks to his research on atomic structure and radiation. Many physicists took their studies as foundations and concluded that the light had a wave-particle duality.

On the other hand, his fame allowed him to travel to Brussels to participate in the Solvay Conference in 1927 which main subject was the premature quantum theory. Among the participants were Auguste Piccard, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Erwin Schrödinger, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, Paul Dirac, Louis de Broglie and Max Planck. Later he developed the liquid drop with which he explained the nuclear disintegrations, especially the clear fission capacity of the uranium isotope 235.

Bohr was the master of Werner Heisenberg, he led the German atomic bomb project. At the beginning of the Nazi invasion in Denmark. In 1941, Bohr and Heisenberg met in Copenhagen. Bohr did not understand the position of Heisenberg and that of many German physicists in favor of the production of the atomic bomb for military purposes, but in any case, they carried out great research for the development of nuclear technology, which years later caused so many deaths. This controversial meeting was put on stage several decades later, in the play “Copenhagen” written by Michael Frayn. It was taken to the theater and presented several times on Broadway. In 2002, the film version of the book, directed by Howard Davies, came to light.

Bohr, after this meeting and show his discordance against the development of the atomic bomb, was forced to go to Sweden to avoid the persecution of the German Nazi authorities. A month later, he traveled to London and finally settled in the United States. He was involved in the construction of the first atomic bombs in this territory. He stayed for some time in the United States and after he decided to return to Denmark escaping from the dangers of the World War II that had been around for two years. Once safe, he supported Anglo-American attempts to develop atomic weapons, he did so at the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico. During and after the war he always expressed the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” ― Niels Bohr

At the end of the war, he became a passionate defender of nuclear disarmament, a position he expressed during the Gifford lectures between 1948 and 1950, with the exposition of his study called “Casualty and Complementarity”. Subsequently, Bohr helped create the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. This physicist was restless and always interested in creating new spaces and institutions for the development of science, for that reason, he organized the first Atoms Conference for Peace in Geneva. As a result, he was awarded with the prize for peace atoms.

Niels also made sure to disseminate his studies not only in conferences but leave them written in intellectual works of dissemination and reflection, such as “The atomic theory and the description of phenomena” published in 1934 and also published the famous thesis “Atomic theory and human knowledge” in 1958. His influence was so important that they named the chemical element bohrium in his honor, as well as the asteroid (3948) Bohr, which was found by Poul Jensen in 1985. Bohr’s impact on science is remarkable. His Institute of Theoretical Physics, which bears his name, is now a place of deployment for physicists from all over the world. In his native country, he promoted the establishment of nuclear and development facilities, making him an eminent citizen of his country.

“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.” ― Niels Bohr

In the last years of his intellectual stage, he insisted on giving a gnoseological foundation to certain physical problems, in order to interpret new modes quantum mechanics. He explained and developed the principle of complementarity, based on the positivist principle. Overcoming the influence of neopositivism. In short, he was able to approach the materialist interpretation of different problems of quantum mechanics and knowledge theory. His research confirms the dialectical nature of the development of nature, as well as the importance of mastering the method of materialist dialectics. His scientific contributions came to an end, although not his intellectual legacy to science especially physics.

Niels Bohr died in his hometown, Copenhagen on November 18, 1962, due to a heart failure.

Most Popular

To Top