NBA Home

Niels Bohr Archive: Annual Report 2000

Director Finn Aaserud
Academic Assistant Felicity Pors
Librarian/Secretary Anne Lis Rasmussen
Conservator Judith Hjartbro
Scientific Associates Aage Bohr
Jørgen Kalckar
Hilde Levi
Knud Max Møller
Abraham Pais (also at Rockefeller
University, New York), deceased 28.7.2000
Board of directors:
For the Vice-Chancellor of
the University of Copenhagen
Henrik Jeppesen
For the Niels Bohr Institute Andrew D. Jackson, chair
For the Royal Danish Academy of
Sciences and Letters
David Favrholdt
For the Minister of Research Kirsti Andersen
For the family of Niels Bohr Anne Bohr Dawids

General remarks

The Niels Bohr Archive (NBA) is a repository of primary material for the history of modern physics, pertaining in particular to the early development of quantum mechanics and the life and career of Niels Bohr. Although the NBA has existed since shortly after Bohr's death in 1962, its future was only secured at the centennial of Bohr's birth in 1985, when a deed of gift from Bohr's wife, Margrethe, provided the opportunity to establish the NBA as an independent not-for-profit institution. Since 1985, the NBA has had its own board of directors and has received a fixed annual sum for running expenses from the Danish Ministry of Education (with an interlude from spring 1998 through 2000, when it was sponsored by the Ministry of Research); it has also made ample use of its privilege to apply for project support from private sources.

The core of the collections comprises Bohr's scientific correspondence (6000 letters and drafts) and manuscripts (500 units). This material was catalogued and microfilmed in the early 1960s as part of the Archive for History of Quantum Physics (AHQP), a project sponsored by the American Philosophical Society and the American Physical Society. The outcome was 290 microfilms of various relevant historical material, which have been placed in several repositories world-wide, including the NBA.

In addition, the NBA houses several historical collections that cannot be consulted elsewhere. Thus, in 1985 the Bohr family donated the bulk of Bohr's private correspondence, which includes letters to and from central personalities in culture and politics inside and outside Denmark. The equally extensive "Bohr General Correspondence" documents Bohr's substantial administrative involvement.

Among papers of Bohr's closest colleagues deposited in the NBA, only the George Hevesy Scientific Correspondence has been microfilmed, but the papers of among others H.A.\ Kramers, Christian Møller, Oskar Klein, and Léon Rosenfeld are also of great historical interest. Some papers of more recent origin---notably those of Niels Bohr's son, Aage Bohr, Niels Bohr's close collaborator, Stefan Rozental, and Danish solid state physicist Allan Mackintosh---have also been deposited. The large collection of photographs relating to Bohr's career is an especially popular resource. Finally, there are reprint, film, sound tape and video tape collections, as well as a growing library.

The NBA continues the publication---through Elsevier---of the Niels Bohr Collected Works, the first volume of which appeared in 1972. A complete list of the ten volumes published so far is posted on the NBA's website, Volume 11 (edited by Finn Aaserud and the only one remaining) will cover Bohr's activities outside science and philosophy, prominently including some of Bohr's previously unpublished writings on his idea of an "open world," developed during and after World War II.

In early 1999, upon consultation with the Research Ministry, the NBA increased its special activities disseminating natural science for the public, particularly gymnasium (high-school) students (for details, see the website).

Activities in 2000

The NBA mourns the death of Professor Abraham Pais on 28 July 2000. He chose the NBA as his work place during the summer for more than ten years. We were privileged by his presence, which we very much enjoyed and profited from. We miss him deeply.

In 2000, the NBA's website has been improved considerably, and it continues to be developed. It now contains detailed information on most of the NBA's holdings and activities.

The NBA's new combined reading room and library was officially opened in March and is becoming increasingly popular. The books are catalogued in the Niels Bohr Institute's new on-line library system which came into use in 2000. The library catalogue is accessible from the website.

The organization, conservation and registration of the papers of Aage Bohr and Allan Mackintosh - for which NBA has received support from Danish National Lottery (Tips/Lottomidler), as well as from the AIP Center for History of Physics - are well underway. The planned completion date is April 2001.

The NBA's photograph collection can now be consulted on the Web and is becoming an ever more popular resource. In 2000, extensive use of the photograph and film collections has been made in particular in connection with three centenaries: Planck's introduction in 1900 of the quantum concept (to which exhibit in Berlin the NBA among other items loaned out Bohr's original Nobel Prize diploma); the birth of physicist Wolfgang Pauli in 2000; and the institution in 1901 of the Nobel Prize.

The dissertation of NBA's Ph.D. student Carsten Jensen, who died in 1991, was published by Birkhäuser Verlag in Basle as Controversy and Consensus: Nuclear Beta Decay 1911--1934 (see "Publications" below).

Supplementary material to the George Hevesy Papers, as well as the records of the Danish Physical Society and of the student club Parentesen, have been deposited at the Archive.

Aaserud has participated in conferences in, among other places, Barcelona, London, New York and Berlin. In New York, he took part in a large symposium in connection with the Broadway production of Michael Frayn's play "Copenhagen," with which the NBA continues to be involved on several levels. The visit to the United States was made in Aaserud's capacity as adviser for a project under the auspices of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science to document Swedish physics and astronomy since World War II.

In 2000, the NBA has organized seven events (two of which jointly with other institutions) in its series of History of Science Seminars, with speakers from at home and abroad. The commemoration of Giordano Bruno and the centennial event, One hundred years of quanta, with Olivier Darrigol and Ole Knudsen as speakers, attracted particular interest. Brief descriptions of the seminars, and in some cases the full lectures, are provided on the website.

The NBA continues to be visited by several researchers from all over the world.

As part of the public dissemination programme, the NBA has hosted or co-hosted several lectures (for details, see the website) and contributed to the well-attended NBI arrangement on the annual "Kulturnatten" (Culture Night) in Copenhagen. Moreover, Aaserud took part in the biennial Danish Science Festival, holding talks several places in Denmark.


In 2000, the following writings were published by NBA staff as authors or editors.

Finn Aaserud:
"The scientist and the statesmen: Niels Bohr's political crusade during World War II" in Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences :1 (1999), 1-47.

Finn Aaserud:
"Atomforskning uten atomkraft" in Forskningspolitikk No. 2 (2000), 20-21.

Finn Aaserud:
"Copenhagen Play Portrays Bohr and Heisenberg" in AIP History Newsletter 32:1 (Spring 2000), 1-2.

Finn Aaserud:
"Niels Bohr Archive Expands In New Quarters" in AIP History Newsletter 32:1 (Spring 2000), 2.

Finn Aaserud:
"Wir brauchen einen Dialog" in "Kopenhagen" - Wissenschaftshistoriker auf der Bühne, Matthias Dörries (ed.); Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Preprint 156), 2000; pp. 33-36.

Carsten Jensen:
Controversy and Consensus: Nuclear Beta Decay 1911--1934, Finn Aaserud, Helge Kragh, Erik Rüdinger and Roger H. Stuewer (eds.); Basle, Boston, Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2000.

Abraham Pais:
The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery of Twentieth-Century Physicists; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Abraham Pais [with a response by Michael Frayn]:
"What Happened in Copenhagen?: A Physicist's View and the Playwright's Response" in Hudson Review 53:2 (2000), 182-191.


Last updated: 2002