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November 18: Niels Bohr

November 18, 2013

Niels BohrDanish physicist Niels Bohr, who escaped to Sweden during Denmark’s rescue of its Jews in 1943 and became an important contributor to America’s development of the atomic bomb, died at 77 in Carlsberg, a district of Copenhagen, on this date in 1962. Bohr was awarded the 1922 Nobel Prize in physics for his application of quantum theory to atomic and molecular structure. His conviction about the realities of quantum physics brought him into a lifelong, good-natured conflict with Albert Einstein, who skeptically described the quantum concept of entanglement as “spooky action at a distance.” Bohr also identified uranium-235 as the fissionable material that could be harnessed to create the Bomb. In 1950, he wrote an open letter to the United Nations calling for internationalization of nuclear energy, which presaged the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In 1957, he received the first Atoms for Peace Award. An asteroid, a crater on the moon, and a chemical element with atomic number 107 are all named for Niels Bohr.

“Everything we call real is made up of things that cannot be regarded as real. If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.” —Niels Bohr