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Today would have been Niels Bohr’s 127th birthday.

Niels Bohr

Niels Bohr

Niels Bohr is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, scientist Denmark has fostered. His theory on the structure of atoms won him the Nobel Prize of physics in 1922. His son Aage Bohr won the same prize in 1975.

In 1921, the Institute for Theoretical Physics was founded on Blegdamsvej number 15 in Copenhagen, with Bohr as its natural leader. The institute was later renamed the Niels Bohr Institute. It is still situated in the same building but today the address has been changed to Blegdamsvej 17. It lies between the Danish Freemasons’ building and the “Rigshospitalet” or “Kingdom Hospital” (known from the TV series).

Niels Bohr Institute

The Niels Bohr Institute

I have had the pleasure of studying at the Niels Bohr Institute some 25 years ago before concentrating on majoring in Computing. Need I say it was quite an experience? The canteen had pens on every table, and you would sometimes find napkins with formulas and equations written on them after the physicists had been sitting at the table having lunch and discussing theoretical physics.

I was told that the University of Copenhagen had once been quite concerned about the high dropout rate among first-year physics students, so they asked Bohr to teach first year physics – and then the dropout rate skyrocketed. Lesson learned: Brilliant physicists don’t necessarily make the best teachers! Or maybe, You shouldn’t ask a scientist to teach way lower than his or her own level! 😉

Niels Bohr was also a talented football (soccer) goalkeeper but never made it beyond his club’s second-best team. It is said that on at least one occasion he passed time during a match by solving equations on a sheet of paper, writing against the goal post – allowing the opposing center-forward to score an easy goal. 😀

His older brother Harald Bohr played four matches for the “real” national team, before becoming an internationally respected professor of Mathematics.

Niels Bohr passed away in 1962.