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Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist who is known for his contribution to quantum theory and atomic structure and won the 1922 Nobel Prize for Physics. Aside from being one of the foremost physicists of the 20th century, Bohr was also a philosopher and research enthusiast.
See the fact file below for more information on the Niels Bohr or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Niels Bohr worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY
- Born on October 7, 1885 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Niels Henrik David Bohr was the second of three children in an upper-class family. He was the son of Ellen Adler, daughter of a wealthy Jewish Danish politician, and Christian Bohr, a physiology professor nominated twice for a Nobel Prize.
- His elder sister, Jenny, became a teacher, while his younger brother, Harald, became a mathematician and footballer who played for the Danish national team.
- Like his brother, Niels was also passionate about football and they played for their town’s Akademisk Boldklub (Academic Football Club), with Niels as goalkeeper.
- In 1891, he and Harald started at Gammelholm Grammar School. Niels excelled in his studies, coming third or fourth in a class of 20 students.
- Bohr loved talking but hated writing essays; he was rather weak in his own native language, Danish. However, he loved math and science.
- In 1903, he studied at the University of Copenhagen, majoring in physics, but also studied chemistry, astronomy, and mathematics.
- At the end of October 1906, Niels submitted a research paper about surface tensions of liquids, and won the gold medal, awarded to him by the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences. This was a remarkable achievement for an undergraduate.
- From 1907 to 1911, he completed his master’s and doctorate degrees in physics.
- At 26, he was one of the chosen few to work with J.J. Thomson’s Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in England. However, he lost interest in the research, pointing out some mistakes from the book authored by Thomson.
- In March 1912, he transferred to a laboratory at the University of Manchester, where he started working for Ernest Rutherford. Rutherford won the 1908 Chemistry Nobel Prize for his contributions in radioactivity and was known for his discovery of the atomic nucleus.
- They were good friends for 25 years, and even their families spent happy vacations together.
SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS
- Bohr proposed that atoms could be pictured as a tiny solar system, with electrons orbiting the atomic nucleus in fixed orbits. The farther the electron from the nucleus, the higher its energy. More than one electron can share an orbit around the nucleus.
- With his new atomic model, he mentioned that electrons are forbidden for particular circular orbits.
- However, through the absorption of light, they can jump from a lower energy orbit to a higher energy orbit. Electrons can also transfer from a higher orbit to a lower energy orbit by emitting light (lost energy).
- His quantum theory explained why electrons do not lose their energy as they come close to the nucleus. This theory also mentioned the spectra of atoms, showing that the energies of electron orbits have intensity and vary in color.
- He also showed the chemical properties of elements, caused by the behavior of electrons in the highest stable orbit, presently called valence electrons. He explained further the periodic table’s structure and proposed a new scientific discipline: quantum chemistry.
- In 1913, Bohr published three famous quantum papers. He also gave talks at the University of Gottingen in Germany, the center of the mathematical universe. Rutherford also offered for him to return to Manchester for a senior academic research role.
- When he returned to Copenhagen, he became the university’s first chair of theoretical physics.
- He formulated the compound nucleus theory from 1934 to 1935, and published it in 1936. This stated that when a neutron is inside a nucleus, it repeatedly collides with a number of neutrons and protons present, resulting in a semi-stable compound nucleus with a high-energy state (because of the collisions), and loses energy by emitting gamma rays or losing a neutron.
- In 1939, he and John Archibald Wheeler collaborated to produce the liquid-drop model, which described the nucleus as a rotating drop of firm liquid due to surface tension.
- A single drop can change its basic spherical shape and a large drop can fall apart and be divided into new drops, now known as nuclear fission. This model was very useful in explaining the properties of a heavy nuclei, such as Uranium, for isotope 235.
- In 1940, the Nazi government invaded Denmark and decided to deport Denmark’s Jews to concentration camps. Bohr knew that the Nazis would arrest him since he had Jewish roots. His family fled to Sweden in 1943. After a week, Niels and Aage, his son, flew to the United Kingdom.
- In 1944, they worked on a Manhattan Project, producing nuclear weapons during World War II. To keep their presence in America hidden, they used the names Nicholas Baker and James Baker.
SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS
- In 1922, Bohr won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research on the structure of atoms and the radiation these atoms emit.
- He became a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1927.
- In 1938, he received the Royal Society Copley medal for his distinguished work in the development of quantum theory.
- He received the first US Atoms for Peace award and the Sonning Prize from the University of Copenhagen in 1957.
- He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1975 with his son, Aage.
PERSONAL LIFE AND LEGACY
- In 1912, he married Margaret Nørlund, with whom he had six sons. One of them, Aage Bohr, also won a Nobel Prize in Physics.
- On November 18, 1962, he died at the age of 77 from sudden heart failure. He was buried in Copenhagen’s Assistens Cemetery, near the grave of his parents and his brother Harald.
Niels Bohr Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Niels Bohr across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Niels Bohr worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Niels Bohr who was a Danish physicist who is known for his contribution to quantum theory and atomic structure and won the 1922 Nobel Prize for Physics. Aside from being one of the foremost physicists of the 20th century, Bohr was also a philosopher and research enthusiast.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Niels Bohr Facts
- Who was Niels Bohr?
- Bohr’s Timeline
- Test Yourself!
- Bohr’s Model
- Their Models
- About the Proponents
- Two Principles in Physics
- All About Atoms
- Build an Atom
- A Quote From Niels
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