Today in World History: October 7th

Niels Bohr, Danish physicist, was born on this day in 1885. He developed his atomic model in 1913. Placing the electrons in the valence shells and the protons and neutrons in the nucleus, Bohr created the most popular atomic model in common science, although it has since been replaced in the scientific community. Bohr’s model was revolutionary at the time, and helped him rise to fame. Upon finishing work on his atomic model, Bohr founded an institution of physics, and began studying quantum mechanics. Bohr’s research also provided the foundation for the discovery of Hafnium, an element more common in nature than gold. In 1922, Bohr was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, and his son followed in his footsteps fifty years later, winning the prize as well.

Bohr continued his research until the beginning of World War Two, when Jewish scientists and researchers, along with opponents to the Nazi regime, began fleeing Europe. Denmark, having been occupied by Germany in April of 1940, saw many Jewish scientists trapped. After Bohr learned that he was a potential Nazi target due to his mother’s being Jewish, he fled with the help of the Danish Liberation Movement to neutral Sweden. Speaking with the Swedish King, Bohr helped to organize Sweden’s acceptance of Jewish refugees, clearing the way for 7,000 Jewish Danes to flee the Nazis. After leaving Denmark, Bohr became heavily involved in the development of nuclear weapons, having researched the topic years before. Although he was initially skeptical, he agreed to help the Anglo-American development of the atomic bombs, yet was acutely aware of the consequences that would follow the creation of such weapons. Following the end of the war, Niels Bohr helped coordinate the foundation of a European science program, later developing into CERN. He returned to Denmark, where he served as chairman for the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics. He died on November 18, 1962, at the age of seventy-seven, of heart failure.

“The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.”

-Niels Bohr

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