Physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962)

Physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962)

One of the Assistens Kirkegård's largest monuments was erected for the Bohr Family, whose most famous member was Niels Bohr (1885-1962) - a Danish physicist who made fundamental contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics. He received the Nobel Prize in 1922 and mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in Copenhagen. "An expert”, he said, “is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field."

During WWII, Bohr, who was Jewish, had to leave the country. He became part of the team of physicists working on the Manhattan Project - a success in the sense that the project did eventually yield the atom bomb. Bohr was very concerned, though, about a nuclear arms race and believed that atomic secrets should be shared by the international scientific community. Many disagreed. Winston Churchill, for one, found the idea of openness towards the Russians mad. He wrote in a letter: "It seems to me Bohr ought to be confined or at any rate made to see that he is very near the edge of mortal crimes."

After the war Bohr returned to Copenhagen, advocating the peaceful use of nuclear energy. He died in Copenhagen in 1962. In 1965, three years after Bohr's death, the Institute of Physics at the University of Copenhagen changed its name to the Niels Bohr Institute.

Niels Bohr's father, Christian, for whom the monument was originally erected, was a physician. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize several times without receiving it, though. Christian Bohr was also the father of mathematician Harald Bohr (1887-1951). 

Christian Bohr's urn is placed inside the monument, which was created by the artist J.F. Willumsen. 

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