Einstein–Bohr Friendship Recounted by Bohr's Grandson
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“There’s a lot of discussion about the debates they had and who was right.”
Vilhelm Bohr. He’s the grandson of the great physicist Niels Bohr. Who had strong scientific disagreements with Albert Einstein. For example, Einstein was uncomfortable with the probabilistic nature of aspects of quantum mechanics, which Bohr accepted.
“But they did have a very warm relationship.”
On June 3rd, 2015, Vilhelm Bohr talked about his famous grandfather at length in a public lecture at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
“I just found these two letters here that I thought would be interesting to just highlight. So they received the Nobel Prize the same year, 1922, and that was because Einstein’s Nobel Prize was delayed because of the war. Niels Bohr was writing to Einstein how deeply honored he is to get the Nobel Prize at the same time: ‘I’m sending my warmest congratulations on the occasion of you receiving the Nobel Prize. You have received so many recognitions, and this may not be of great importance to you, but it also brings such useful monetary award. For myself it brings the honest honor and happiness that under these circumstances I shall receive this honor at the same time as you. I know how little I have deserved this compared to your enormous contribution.’
“And there’s a handwritten letter from Einstein to Bohr from the ship on the way back from Japan. It says, ‘Dear beloved Bohr, your affectionate letter reached me shortly before my departure from Japan. I can say without exaggeration that it pleased me as much as the Nobel Prize. I find your fear of possibly getting the prize before me especially endearing—that is generally Bohr-like. Your new analysis on the atom accompanied me on my journey and my love for your mind has grown even more. Warm regards to a happy reunion in Stockholm, from Einstein.’”
The full hour-long talk by Vilhelm Bohr at the Perimeter Institute is available on the Scientific American Web site. Just search for Bohr and it’s currently among the first page of entries that come up.
Thanks for the minute for Scientific American's 60-Second Science. I'm Steve Mirsky.