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4. Bohr


Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00007.x


One of the most influential physicists of the twentieth century, Niels Bohr was born in Copenhagen on 7 October 1885, and died there on 18 November 1962. He came of a well-to-do, cultivated family, his father being Professor of Physiology at Copenhagen University, where Bohr himself received his education in physics. After taking his doctorate in 1911, Bohr went to Cambridge University to continue his research on the theory of electrons under Sir J. J. Thomson. After several months in Cambridge, he moved to Manchester to work under Ernest Rutherford, the world leader in the newly emerging field of atomic physics. It was in Rutherford's department that Bohr proposed his revolutionary quantum theory of the structure of the hydrogen atom in 1913. In order to explain the surprisingly large angles at which alpha particles were scattered from atoms in a target, Rutherford had proposed that an atom consists of a positively charged nucleus, and negatively charged electrons which orbit the nucleus. According to classical electrodynamics, however, such a structure ought quickly to disintegrate, for the electrons ought rapidly to spiral down into the nucleus, giving off radiation on their way. Bohr tackled this problem, and solved it with a theory of extraordinary boldness. Blatantly contradicting the classical theory, he suggested that an atom can exist only in a finite number of discrete ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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