Niels Bohr birth anniversary: “Stop telling God what to do” is famously attributed to Neil’s Bohr which was a reply to Einstein’s claim that “God doesn’t play dice” in the context of the philosophical repercussions of quantum theory.
The philosophical underpinnings of quantum mechanics was almost impossible to digest for the best of Quantum Physicists at that time. Niels Bohr, Albert Einstein and Heisenberg etc, all of them were having a hard time in understanding the philosophical implications of quantum physics.
Neil’s Bohr was critical of Einstein’s position and hence he was reminding him that under no circumstances theoretical considerations can take precedence over empirical results.
Born on 7th October 1885 in Copenhagen, Denmark to an educated parents, Bohr became interested in physics at a very young age.
While working for JJ Thomson in England in 1912, he met Ernst Rutherford who was awarded Nobel Prize for the discovery of the nucleus and the development of an atomic model. This is where he began focusing on the properties of atoms. Bohr was instrumental in the formulation of theory of atomic structure which earned him a Nobel Prize.
It was a very interesting era in science when dual nature of matter and radiation was being debated and discussed in scientific community which finally shaped our understanding of the nature of light and particle. It was finally established that light and matter both can act as a particle and wave.
Bohr had in a number of his writings suggested that electrons can be viewed either as a wave or a particle but never the both at the same time. And this idea forms the basis of early quantum theory.
His contribution to the study of quantum mechanics has been recognized by renaming of Institute for Theoretical Physics at Copenhagen University which was founded by him in 1920 as Niels Bohr Institute in his honor.
He believed in using his skills for a greater good and not to contribute to any sort of violent machinery. He had to escape Denmark when Nazis invaded Denmark in World War II.
His dedication towards the peaceful use of Atomic Sciences for the welfare of humanity and his involvement in solving political issues which arose from the development of atomic weapons of mass destruction speaks a lot about his personality.
His belief that nations should be completely open with one another can be substantiated by his quote that ” The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness”.
Scientific community will remain forever indebted for the contribution that Bohr made to the understanding of the physical sciences and made way for understanding of reality which still seem to be elusive after a century of the discovery of quantum mechanics.