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Niels Bohr

“Your theory is crazy, but it is not crazy enough to be true”

Niels BohrThe above sounds like the words of a mad man but they actually come from one of the arguably two most famous and influential physicists of all time.

Danish physicist Niels Bohr (b. 1885), along with Albert Einstein, fundamentally changed our understanding of the world. Einstein primarily took his interest in the universe on a large scale while Bohr´s contribution to science was confined to the mechanics of the smallest of things, namely the atom. Within the field of the so-called quantum mechanics, Bohr revolutionised our understanding of the structure of the atom for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1922. Although practically applicable in many ways (for instance modern computers rely heavily on the theory of quantum mechanics) Bohr understood that the field in itself was extremely abstract and virtually incomprehensible for the ordinary man. That is why he jokingly remarked to a student that his theory was crazy, but not crazy enough to be true.

Fear of nuclear arms race
Being Jewish Bohr had to flee occupied Denmark in 1943. He came to the states and was enrolled in the Manhattan Project, the American programme for the development of the atomic bomb. Although the project was highly dependent on Bohr´s former research, Bohr himself primarily served as a knowledgeable consultant often expressing concern about the implications of such a weapon and the possibility of a nuclear arms race.

After the war Bohr returned to Copenhagen where he lived until his death in 1962. Niels Bohr is buried in the central cemetery ‘Assistens’ in Nørrebro, Copenhagen.

other great danes

The lives and achievements of all these Great Danes and many more are outlined in biographies of varying lengths on these pages. Read more about The Great Danes