Aage Niels Bohr

Born on June 19, 1922 in Copenhagen, Aage Niels Bohr sustained a lifelong passion for physics.  Perhaps his love for physics was genetic, because his father worked as a physicist.  During Bohr’s childhood, he lived at the Institute for Theoretical Physics where his father worked on high level research and constantly surround the family with his academic friends and colleagues.  Bohr was exposed to the elite world of physics at a young age.  He began studying physics in 1940 at the University of Copenhagen, where he worked alongside his father.  However, three years later, the family fled Denmark in order to escape from the Nazis, so Aage Bohr put his education on hold.  Their family temporarily settled in Sweden and a short time later moved to England where Aage and his father worked on an atomic energy project.  However, in 1944 they traveled to the United States, where they worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos.  Aage’s father did play a significant role in the development of the Manhattan Project, and Aage mostly assisted his father’s research in the lab.   

After the war, Bohr returned to Denmark where he earned his masters degree in 1946.  He then joined with a leading scientist at Columbia University where he studied the atomic nucleus structure.  James Rainwater and Aage Bohr together developed a new model that combined the two existing atomic models.  The “liquid-drop” model (developed by Bohr’s father) illustrated that protons and neutrons are bound together like the components of a water molecule.  The “shell model,” contrary to the water-drop model, demonstrates that nucleons orbit in a concentric manner like the electrons orbiting around the atom.  However, upon his return to the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen, Bohr collaborated with Mottelson to create a new model that described the appropriate nuclear structure.  The scientists synthesized the two existing models and produced the “collective model.” This model shows how the nucleus acts like a water molecule, because of the great attraction among the molecules.  But, an outer shell of orbiting nucleons accounts for slight distortions in the usual spherical shape.
In 1954 Bohr earned his PhD in physics, and later succeeded his father as director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics. 

As a devoted and passionate scientist, Bohr made great contributions to the scientific community.  His work earned him (along with Ben Mottelson and Leo Rainwater) the Nobel Prize for physics in 1975 and died on September 8, 2009. 


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