abstract-katzir – Niels Bohr Archive

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Niels Bohr Archive > Calendar > 2013 > 100 years of the Bohr atom > Programme > abstract-katzir

Shaul Katzir, Tel Aviv University, Israel
Manchester at war: Rutherford, Bohr, submarine detection and atomic spectra

In October 1914 Bohr arrived for a second long stay in England, this time as a reader in Rutherford ’ s physics department at Manchester University. While Bohr continued with his theoretic research on the atom, Rutherford had to virtually stop his experimental research on the subject. Instead he dedicated his time for searching means to detect submarines. With former (British) students he carried out classified research in a water tank at the basement of the physics building. Bohr, a neutral citizen, could hardly miss the war research, but did not participate. He, rather, formed a bridge between Rutherford and German scientists informing the former about developments in the study of the atom. Using Rutherford's classified correspondence, I will discuss his work during Bohr ’ s two years tenure in Manchester, Bohr’s role at the place, and Rutherford’s ambivalence towards the war research. On the one hand he regretted that British scientists could not devote their “ attention to the pure science problems. On the other he acknowledged the potential contribution of scientists to the war effort, and helped in their mobilization.