abstract-robertson – Niels Bohr Archive

Peter Robertson, University of Melbourne, Australia
Birthplace of a New Physics – The Early History of the Niels Bohr Institute

The foundation in 1921 of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen was to prove an important event in the birth of modern physics. From its modest beginnings as a small three-storey building and a handful of physicists, the Institute underwent a rapid expansion over the following years. Under Bohr’s leadership, the Institute provided the principal centre for the emergence of quantum mechanics and a new understanding of Nature at the atomic level. Over sixty physicists from 17 countries came to collaborate with the Danish physicists at the Institute during its first decade. The Bohr Institute was the first truly international centre in physics and, indeed, one of the first in any area of science. The Institute provided a striking demonstration of the value of international cooperation in science and it inspired the later development of similar centres elsewhere in Europe and the United States. In this talk I will discuss the origins and early development of the Institute and examine the reasons why it became such an important centre in the development of modern physics.