Aage Niels Bohr

The son of Danish physicist Niels Bohr, Aage Niels Bohr was raised in an environment full of famous physicists who worked with his father. In 1940, Bohr began studying physics, specifically atomic physics, at the University of Copenhagen, as well as helping his father with various tasks like writing articles and generally acting as his assistant. In 1943, Niels Bohr, in
Image courtesy of Absolute Astronomy
order to escape Nazi arrest, fled to Sweden with his family. Aage Bohr followed his father and continued working at his side during this time. Upon the family's return to Denmark, Aage Bohr carried on with his study of atomic physics at the University of Copenhagen and earned a master's degree in 1946 with a thesis focused on atomic stopping problems. Aage Bohr became affiliated with the Niels Bohr Institute immediately following his graduation from the university. At his father's death in 1962, he became the director of the Institute until 1970. He taught as a professor of physics from 1958 until 1981. His contributions and studies in atomic and nuclear physics, like his father did the year Aage was born, earned him one-third of the Nobel Prize in 1975 along with his colleagues, Benjamin Mottelson and James Rainwater, specifically for their discovery of the effects of particle motion on the nucleus of an atom [1].

Insight and Influences

Aage Niels Bohr was born on June 19, 1922 in Copenhagen, Denmark as the fourth son of famous physicist Niels Bohr and his wife, Margrethe B

ohr. During his childhood, he and his family lived at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, which we now know as the Niels Bohr Institute. As the son of this well-known physicist, Aage Bohr was exposed to other famous physicists such as Hendrick A. Kramers, Oscar Klein, Yoshio Nishina, Werner Heisenberg, and Wolfgang Pauli, and became close to them. At the age of ten, Aage Bohr's family moved out of the Institute of Theoretical Physics and into a mansion in Carlsberg, Denmark where he was again exposed to many scholars. Before his university studies, he attended Sortedam Gymnasium where he studied for twelve years [1].

Major Contributions

In 1944, Aage Bohr and his father traveled to the United States to work on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico under the di
Image courtesy of Britannica
rection of theoretical physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie R. Groves. The Manhattan Project was a huge part of the development of the atomic bomb in the US during World War II. It began in June of 1942 due to the fact that the Nazis were rumored to be creating an atomic bomb of their own [4]. This project was top-secret and created under the Army Corps of Engineers. Since the project was so top-secret, scientists working on it were given code names. Aage Bohr, now Jim Baker, worked on the project as an assistant for his father, Nicholas Baker [3].
During the 1950s, Aage Bohr, began research with Benjamin Mottelson and James Rainwater to explain the shape of atomic nuclei. Their theory was that numerous participating nucleons distorted the shape of the nucleus- that every nucleus is not perfectly spherical. Their findings won these three each a share of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1975 [2].

Affect and Effect

Growing up in the Institute of Theoretical Physics and being exposed to so many scientists at such an early age definitely had influence, perhaps even the greatest influence of all, on Aage Bohr's decision to pursue a career in physics like his father. His father founded the Institute at the University of Copenhagen, and the family lived there during Aage's childhood. He received a sort of informal education at the Institute, helping his father with various tasks, and watching so many famous physicists at work, including Oskar Klein and Yoshio Nishina, who developed the Klein-Nishina formula for scattered radiation. In addition to his father and other famous physicists, Aage felt indebted to his teachers at Sortedam Gymnasium, his school for twelve years, for encouraging his interest in humanities and science [8].


In 1975, Aage Bohr was awarded the Nobel prize in physics alongside James Rainwater and Benjamin Mottelson "for the discovery of the connection between collective motion and particle motion in atomic nuclei and the development of the theory of structure of the atomic nucleus based on this connection" [10]. In 1950, James Rainwater had written a paper focusing on a new model of the atomic nucleus which would help explain non-spherical distribution. Aage Bohr had, on his own, researched the same idea and published his own work around a month following Rainwater's publication.


1. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1975/bohr-autobio.html
2. http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/40341
3. http://www.nuclearmuseum.org/online-museum/article/the-manhattan-project/
4. http://www.atomicarchive.com/History/mp/index.shtml
5. http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/biography/BohrAage.html
6. http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Aage_Niels_Bohr.aspx
7. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/12/AR2009091202611.html
8. http://www.answers.com/topic/aage-niels-bohr
9. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/11/world/europe/11bohr.html?_r=1
10. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1975/
11. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1975/bohr-lecture.pdf