Niels Bohr’s

Who is Niel Bohr?

Niels Henrik David Bohr : (7 October 1885 – 18 November 1962) was a Danish physicist who made outstanding contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. He developed the model of the atom with the nucleus at the center and electrons spinning around it, which he compared to the planets spinning around the sun. He worked on the idea in quantum mechanics that electrons move from one energy level to another in discrete steps, not continuously. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in Copenhagen. He was part of the British team of physicists working on the Manhattan Project. Bohr married Margrethe Nørlund in 1912, and one of their sons, Aage Bohr, was also a physicist and in 1975 also received the Nobel Prize. Bohr has been described as one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century.

In 1903, Bohr enrolled as an undergraduate at Copenhagen University, initially studying philosophy and mathematics. In 1905, prompted by a gold medal competition sponsored by the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, he conducted a series of experiments to examine the properties of surface tension, using his father’s laboratory in the university, familiar to him from assisting there since childhood. His essay won the prize, and it was this success that prompted Bohr’s decision to abandon philosophy and adopt physics. He continued as a graduate student at the University of Copenhagen, under the physicist Christian Christiansen, receiving his doctorate in 1911.

As a post-doctoral student, Bohr first conducted experiments under J. J. Thomson, of Trinity College, Cambridge and Cavendish Laboratory. In 1912 he met and later joined Ernest Rutherford at Victoria University of Manchester, where on and off he spent four fruitful years in association with the older physics professor and became part of the ‘Nuclear Family’ which included scientists such as William Lawrence Bragg, James Chadwick and Hans Geiger. In 1916, Bohr returned permanently to the University of Copenhagen, where he was appointed to the Chair of Theoretical Physics, a position created especially for him. In 1918 he began efforts to establish the University Institute of Theoretical Physics, which he later directed.

Earlier in 1910 Bohr had met Margrethe Nørlund, sister of the mathematician Niels Erik Nørlund. They were married in Copenhagen in 1912. Of their six sons, the oldest died in a boating accident and another died from childhood meningitis. The others went on to lead successful lives, including Aage Bohr, who became a very successful physicist and, like his father, was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1975. His other sons were Hans Henrik, a physician, Erik, a chemical engineer, and Ernest, a lawyer.

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