Niels Bohr


Niels Henrik David Bohr

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Niels Henrik David Bohr
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1922

Born: 7 October 1885, Copenhagen, Denmark

Died: 18 November 1962, Copenhagen, Denmark

Affiliation at the time of the award: Copenhagen University, Copenhagen, Denmark

Prize motivation: “for his services in the investigation of the structure of atoms and of the radiation emanating from them”

Prize share: 1/1


Niels Bohr was born and raised in Copenhagen. After his doctorate, he spent a number of years abroad, including in Manchester and Cambridge, before returning to Denmark to become head of Copenhagen University's Institute for Theoretical Physics (now the Niels Bohr Institute). The Institute became a legendary research environment and a center for the development of quantum physics. Bohr became one of Denmark's most famous and acclaimed people and a central figure in 20th century physics.


The discovery of the electron and radioactivity in the late 19th century led to different models being proposed for the atom’s structure. In 1913, Niels Bohr proposed a theory for the hydrogen atom, based on quantum theory that some physical quantities only take discrete values. Electrons move around a nucleus, but only in prescribed orbits, and If electrons jump to a lower-energy orbit, the difference is sent out as radiation. Bohr’s model explained why atoms only emit light of fixed wavelengths, and later incorporated the theories on light quanta.

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