abstract-fischer – Niels Bohr Archive

Ernst Peter Fischer, Heidelberg, Germany
A Romantic Understanding of Atoms: Bohr's success in a new perspective

Bohr´s conception of an atom contains elements that philosophers refer to as romantic and this will come as a surprise for scientists. For the romantics who responded to the ideas of enlightment around 1800 there is no structure of things. For them there is only a field of action. The potential is considered more real than the actual and romantic scientists generate their own vision of the universe and its constituents exactly as artists create a piece of art. A romantic can mould things as he likes and they come into being as a result of his artistic activity. Romantics are opposed to any view which tries to represent reality as having some kind of form which can be studied, written down and communicated to others. From the romantic point of view Nature has to be given a form to be understood. If one adds all this up it becomes obvious that Bohr´s atom is a romantic creation something that should be taken into account when writing the history of science.