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STEM Celebrity Spotlight: Niels Bohr

By Anna Khan

Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist born on October 7, 1885, in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was born into a notable family, his father was a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen. Bohr was educated at this same university where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1909 and his doctorate in 1911. He was heavily influenced by the work of Ernest Rutherford, a British physicist who discovered the atomic nucleus. Rutherford's work inspired Bohr to develop his own theory on atomic structure, which became known as the Bohr model.

Bohr made some significant contributions to STEM, particularly in the field of atomic physics including Bohr’s model, which theorized how electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom. The model proposed the idea that electrons can only exist in certain energy levels, or shells, around the nucleus. Bohr's model was revolutionary and helped to explain many previously mysterious properties of atoms.

Bohr was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922 for his work on atomic structure. He was also the director of the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen, which was founded in 1920. The institute quickly became a leading center for research in atomic physics and quantum mechanics, attracting many of the top physicists of the time.

It should be noted that accomplishing all he did was not remotely easy. He was a Jewish scientist living in Denmark during World War II, and he was forced to flee to the United States to escape Nazi persecution. Even in America, he faced plenty of controversy for being an immigrant and Jewish person with so much success and credibility. However, he continued to work on his research, even under difficult circumstances. He was a strong advocate for international collaboration in science, and he played an important role in establishing the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) after World War II.

Niels Bohr was an important figure in the field of atomic physics, known for his groundbreaking work on atomic structure. His research and advocacy for international collaboration in science have had profound effects on the scientific world and the way everyone from quantum physicists to high school chemistry students understand science. His legacy continues to inspire scientists today, particularly in the field of quantum mechanics.

Works Cited

Aaserud, Finn. “Niels Bohr - the Atomic Bomb.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019,

Atomic Heritage Foundation. “Niels Bohr - Nuclear Museum.”


Patel, Aakash K., and Jeffrey S. Cooper. “Physiology, Bohr Effect.”, StatPearls

Publishing, 27 Oct. 2018,

PBS. “A Science Odyssey: People and Discoveries: Niels Bohr.” PBS,

Bohr%20visited%20the. Accessed 17 Mar. 2023.

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