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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index B > Niels Bohr Quotes > Atom

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Niels Bohr
(7 Oct 1885 - 18 Nov 1962)

Danish physicist.


Niels Bohr Quotes on Atom (8 quotes)

>> Click for 34 Science Quotes by Niels Bohr

>> Click for Niels Bohr Quotes on | Language | Understanding |

[About describing atomic models in the language of classical physics:] We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.
— Niels Bohr
As quoted by Werner Heisenberg, as translated by Arnold J. Pomerans, in Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations (1971), 41. The words are not verbatim, but as later recollected by Werner Heisenberg describing his early encounter with Bohr in 1920.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (381)  |  Classical (49)  |  Classical Physics (6)  |  Concern (239)  |  Connection (171)  |  Creation (350)  |  Description (89)  |  Establishing (7)  |  Fact (1257)  |  Facts (553)  |  Image (97)  |  Language (308)  |  Mental (179)  |  Model (106)  |  Must (1525)  |  Nearly (137)  |  Physic (515)  |  Physics (564)  |  Poet (97)  |  Poetry (150)

As regards the co-ordination of all ordinary properties of matter, Rutherford’s model of the atom puts before us a task reminiscent of the old dream of philosophers: to reduce the interpretation of the laws of nature to the consideration of pure numbers.
— Niels Bohr
In Faraday Lecture (1930), Journal of the Chemical Society (Feb 1932), 349. As quoted and cited in Chen Ning Yang, Elementary Particles (1961), 7.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (381)  |  Consideration (143)  |  Dream (222)  |  Interpretation (89)  |  Law (913)  |  Law Of Nature (80)  |  Matter (821)  |  Model (106)  |  Nature (2017)  |  Number (710)  |  Old (499)  |  Ordinary (167)  |  Philosopher (269)  |  Properties Of Matter (7)  |  Property (177)  |  Pure (299)  |  Reduce (100)  |  Regard (312)  |  Sir Ernest Rutherford (55)  |  Task (152)

One thought [spectra are] marvellous, but it is not possible to make progress there. Just as if you have the wing of a butterfly then certainly it is very regular with the colors and so on, but nobody thought one could get the basis of biology from the coloring of the wing of a butterfly.
— Niels Bohr
Quoted from Interviews (I, 7) in 'The Genesis of the Bohr Atom', J.L. Heilbron and T.S. Kuhn, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences (1969), 257, reprinted in J. L. Heilbron, Historical Studies in the Theory of Atomic Structure (1981), 195.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (381)  |  Basis (180)  |  Biology (232)  |  Butterfly (26)  |  Certainly (185)  |  Color (155)  |  Marvellous (25)  |  Nobody (103)  |  Possible (560)  |  Progress (492)  |  Regular (48)  |  Thought (995)  |  Wing (79)

Quantum provides us with a striking illustration of the fact that though we can fully understand a connection … we can only speak of it in images and parables. We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.
— Niels Bohr
In conversation during first meeting with Werner Heisenberg (summer 1920), as quoted in Werner Heisenberg and Arnold J. Pomerans (trans.), Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations (1971), 41. As cited in Philip Kuberski, The Forgèd Feature: Toward a Poetics of Uncertainty: New and Selected Essays (1995), 177-178.
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The existence of life must be considered as an elementary fact that can not be explained, but must be taken as a starting point in biology, in a similar way as the quantum of action, which appears as an irrational element from the point of view of classical mechanical physics, taken together with the existence of elementary particles, forms the foundation of atomic physics. The asserted impossibility of a physical or chemical explanation of the function peculiar to life would in this sense be analogous to the insufficiency of the mechanical analysis for the understanding of the stability of atoms.
— Niels Bohr
'Light and Life', Nature, 1933, 131, 458.
Science quotes on:  |  Action (342)  |  Analysis (244)  |  Assert (69)  |  Atom (381)  |  Atomic Physics (7)  |  Biology (232)  |  Chemical (303)  |  Classical (49)  |  Classical Physics (6)  |  Consider (428)  |  Element (322)  |  Elementary (98)  |  Existence (481)  |  Explain (334)  |  Explanation (246)  |  Fact (1257)  |  Form (976)  |  Foundation (177)  |  Function (235)  |  Impossibility (60)  |  Insufficiency (3)  |  Life (1870)  |  Mechanical (145)  |  Must (1525)  |  Particle (200)  |  Peculiar (115)  |  Physic (515)  |  Physical (518)  |  Physics (564)  |  Point (584)  |  Point Of View (85)  |  Quantum (118)  |  Sense (785)  |  Stability (28)  |  Together (392)  |  Understanding (527)  |  View (496)  |  Way (1214)

The present state of atomic theory is characterized by the fact that we not only believe the existence of atoms to be proved beyond a doubt, but also we even believe that we have an intimate knowledge of the constituents of the individual atoms.
— Niels Bohr
'The structure of the atom', Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1922. In Nobel Lectures: Physics 1922-1941 (1998), 5.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (381)  |  Atomic Theory (16)  |  Beyond (316)  |  Constituent (47)  |  Doubt (314)  |  Existence (481)  |  Fact (1257)  |  Individual (420)  |  Knowledge (1647)  |  Present (630)  |  State (505)  |  Theory (1015)

This interpretation of the atomic number [as the number of orbital electrons] may be said to signify an important step toward the solution of the boldest dreams of natural science, namely to build up an understanding of the regularities of nature upon the consideration of pure number.
— Niels Bohr
Atomic Theory and the Description of Nature (1934), 103-104Cited in Gerald James Holton, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein (1985), 74.
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We intend to say something about the structure of the atom but lack a language in which we can make ourselves understood. We are in much the same position as a sailor, marooned on a remote island where conditions differ radically from anything he has ever known and where, to make things worse, the natives speak a completely alien tongue.
— Niels Bohr
In conversation during first meeting with Werner Heisenberg (summer 1920), as quoted in William H. Cropper, Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking (2001), 249-250.
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Niels Bohr quote: What is that we human beings ultimately depend on? We depend on our words. We are suspended in language.

See also:
  • 7 Oct - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Bohr's birth.
  • Suspended In Language: Niels Bohr's Life, Discoveries, And The Century He Shaped, by Jim Ottaviani. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Niels Bohr.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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