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Niels Henrik David Bohr

Biography of Niels Henrik David Bohr

Niels Henrik David Bohr received the award of Doctor of Laws from the University of Glasgow in 1951. He was a Danish physicist, philosopher and footballer, who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922.

Bohr founded the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen, now known as the Niels Bohr Institute, which opened in 1920. He predicted the existence of a new zirconium-like element, which was named hafnium, after Copenhagen, when it was discovered. Later, the element Bohrium was named after him. He conceived the principle of complementarity: that items could be separately analysed as having contradictory properties, like behaving as a wave or a stream of particles. The notion of complementarity dominated his thinking on both science and philosophy.

During the 1930s, Bohr gave refugees from Nazism temporary jobs at the Institute, provided them with financial support, arranged for them to be awarded fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, and ultimately found them places at various institutions around the world. After Denmark was occupied by the Germans, he had a dramatic meeting with Heisenberg, the head of the German nuclear energy project in Copenhagen. In 1943, fearing arrest, Bohr fled to Sweden, where he persuaded King Gustav V of Sweden to make public Sweden's willingness to provide asylum. He was then flown to Britain, where he joined the British Tube Alloys nuclear weapons project, and was part of the British team of physicists who worked on the Manhattan Project.

After the war, Bohr called for international cooperation on nuclear energy. He was involved with the establishment of CERN, and became the first chairman of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in 1957. He was also involved with the founding of the Risø DTU National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy.

Summary

Niels Henrik David Bohr
Born 7 October 1885.
Died 18 November 1962.
University Link: Honorary Graduate
GU Degree: LLD, 1952;
Occupation categories: footballers; philosophers; physicists
Record last updated: 9th Jul 2014

University Connections

University Roles

  • Honorary Graduate

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