Niels Bohr

Niels Henrik David Bohr

Niels Henrik David Bohr is considered as one of most dominant and influential physicists of the 20th century. His remarkable work in understanding the atomic structure and quantum mechanics earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. He was also a prominent member of the team of physicists working on the Manhattan Project. His contribution to the field of physics has received remarkable praise from many scientists all over the world.


Bohr’s Early Life and Educational Background:

The Danish physicist was born on 7 October 1885 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He belonged to a highly influential and well educated family. His father, Professor Christian Bohr taught physiology at the University of Copenhagen, while his mother Ellen Adler, came from a prominent Jew family. It was his father who was greatly responsible for awakening his interest in physics. In his adolescence, he played for Copenhagen-based Akademisk Boldklub as a footballer.

Bohr received his early education at the Gammelholm Grammar School. In 1903, he joined the Copenhagen University, where he initially studied philosophy and mathematics. After he won a prize for an essay on physics he decided to adopt physics and drop philosophy. He received his Master’s degree in Physics in 1909. Bohr completed his Doctorate from Christian Christiansen in 1911. Later he conducted experiments under the guidance Professor J. J. Thomson at the Trinity College, Cambridge as a post doctorate student.

Professor Bohr got married, in 1912, to Margrethe Nørlund. They had six sons, out of which one died in an accident and the other died in childhood. One of his sons, Aage Bohr, carried Niels’ work forward and became a physicist. Aage was also awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1975.

Bohr’s Contributions:

In 1913, Bohr’s model of atomic structure was published which became the basis of the famous quantum theory. In 1916, Niels Bohr became a Professor at the University of Copenhagen and later founded the Institute of Theoretical Physics in 1921. Bohr’s institute became headquarter for theoretical physicists and most of the best known physicists contributed there.

Due to security reasons Niels Bohr assumed the name of Nicholas Baker for the top-secret Manhattan Project in New Mexico, America. Soon after World War II, Bohr started advocating the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Copenhagen.
‘The Bohr model of the atom’, ‘The shell model of the atom’, ‘The correspondence principle’, ‘The liquid drop model of the atomic nucleus’, the identification of uranium isotope and ‘The principle of complementarity’ are some of his major contributions to the field of physics and chemistry.

Final Days:

Bohr died on 18th November 1962, at the age of 77 because of a heart failure. He is buried in the Assistens Kierkegaard in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1965, in honor of Bohr the Institute of Physics at the University of Copenhagen changed its name to the Niels Bohr Institute. Chemical Element ‘Bohrium’ and ‘Asteroid 3948 Bohr’ being named after him are few of his legacies.