Niels Bohr Institute

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Coordinates: 55°41′48.29″N 12°34′16.80″E / 55.6967472°N 12.5713333°E / 55.6967472; 12.5713333

The Niels Bohr Institute in 2005

The Niels Bohr Institute (Danish: Niels Bohr Institutet) is a research institute of the University of Copenhagen. The research of the institute spans astronomy, geophysics, nanotechnology, particle physics, quantum mechanics and biophysics.


The Institute was founded in 1921, as the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of Copenhagen, by the Danish theoretical physicist Niels Bohr, who had been on the staff of the University of Copenhagen since 1914, and who had been lobbying for its creation since his appointment as professor in 1916. On the 80th anniversary of Niels Bohr's birth – October 7, 1965 – the Institute officially became the Niels Bohr Institute.[1] Much of its original funding came from the charitable foundation of the Carlsberg brewery, and later from the Rockefeller Foundation.[2]

During the 1920s, and 1930s, the Institute was the center of the developing disciplines of atomic physics and quantum physics. Physicists from across Europe (and sometimes further abroad) often visited the Institute to confer with Bohr on new theories and discoveries. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is named after work done at the Institute during this time.

Following his father's death in 1962, Aage Bohr succeeded him as director of the Niels Bohr Institute, a position he held until 1970. He remained active there until he retired in 1992.[3]

On January 1, 1993 the institute was merged with the Astronomic Observatory, the Ørsted Laboratory and the Geophysical Institute. The new resulting institute retained the name Niels Bohr Institute.

Research sections[edit]

Research at the Niels Bohr Institute is organised in ten research sections covering a broad range of physics, i.e. astrophysics, biophysics, solid state physics, geophysics, particle physics and e-science.

Cosmic Dawn[edit]

Logo for DAWN with blue horizon.jpg

The Cosmic Dawn Center is an Astronomy/Cosmology research center, founded as a collaboration between the University of Copenhagen and DTU Space of the Danish Technical University (DTU). The center is led by center director and NBI Professor Sune Toft and center co-director Thomas Greve, Professor at DTU and UCL.[4] The main objective of the center is to investigate the period known as the Cosmic Dawn (the transition period following the Cosmic Dark Ages),[5] i.e. the reionization of the Universe and the formation of the first galaxies, through observations as well as through theory and simulations.[6]


Research conducted at the center is focused on the specific period in the history of the Universe known as the Cosmic Dawn. This largely unexplored period, 300-600 million years after the Big Bang is when the first stars, black holes, and galaxies are believed to have formed.[7][8] Many of the observations used by the center originate from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), one of the more powerful telescopes in the world.[9] In the future, the center aims to mainly use the James Webb Space Telescope[10][11] and the Euclid Telescope of the European Space Agency (ESA).[12] DAWN scientists were instrumental in the construction of three instruments (NIRSpec, MIRI and NIRISS) for the project,[13] and will be involved in the analysis of the first data from the telescope.[14]

Published research[edit]

As of April 18, 2020, DAWN authors have published at least 187 refereed papers garnering 1602 citations, which, among others, can be found at the NASA/ADS library.[15]

  • Observation of inverse Compton emission from a long γ-ray burst:[16]
  • Identification of strontium in the merger of two neutron stars:[17]
  • Signatures of a jet cocoon in early spectra of a supernova associated with a γ-ray burst:[18]
  • Stellar Velocity Dispersion of a Massive Quenching Galaxy at z = 4.01:[19]

Medal of Honour[edit]

Niels Bohr Institute Medal-A
Niels Bohr Institute Medal-R

in 2010, the year of the 125th anniversary of the birth of Niels Bohr, the Institute established the Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honour. It is an annual award for "a particularly outstanding researcher who is working in the spirit of Niels Bohr: International cooperation and the exchange of knowledge".[20]

The medal is made by Danish sculptor Rikke Raben for the Niels Bohr Institute. On the front is a portrait of Niels Bohr, the atom sign and stars. The illustration on the back is inspired by a quote from Bohr: What is it that we human beings ultimately depend on? We depend on our words. We are suspended in language. Our task is to communicate experience and ideas to others.[21] On the back of the medal: Unity of Knowledge – the title of a lecture given by Bohr at Columbia University in 1954. Nosce te ipsum is Latin and means "know thyself". This quote originates from the Oracle of Delphi, in the Temple of Apollo in Greece.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bohr Institute" in John L. Heilbron, The Oxford Companion to the History of Modern Science (Oxford University Press, 2003), ISBN 978-0199743766, pp. 103–104. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  2. ^ Abraham Pais, "Physics in Denmark: The First Four Hundred Years", lecture delivered March 6, 1996, reprinted at, February 21, 2002.
  3. ^ Anderson, Morten Garly (September 10, 2009). "Nobelprisvinderen Aage Bohr er død ("Nobel Prize winner Aage Bohr has died")". Viden (in Danish). Archived from the original on September 13, 2009.
  4. ^ "Thomas Greve profile at UCL", University College London, April 15, 2020
  5. ^ article on the Cosmic Dawn and the formation of the first stars, April 15, 2020
  6. ^ "The Cosmic Dawn Center profile on Nature", Nature, March 14, 2020
  7. ^ Wall, Mike (February 28, 2018), "Cosmic Dawn: Astronomers Find Fingerprints of Universe's First Stars",, retrieved April 15, 2020
  8. ^ Lemonick, Michael D. (December 14, 2012). "Cosmic Dawn: How the Universe's Lights Went On". Time Magazine. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  9. ^ Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit (March 9, 2019), "Cosmic Dawn", National Geographic, retrieved April 15, 2020
  10. ^ ESA JWST Workshops, April 15, 2020
  11. ^ NASA JWST will explore the Cosmic Dawn, April 15, 2020
  12. ^ "Arianespace and ESA announce the Euclid satellite's launch contract for dark energy exploration". January 7, 2020.
  13. ^ James Webb Space Telescope, retrieved April 15, 2020
  14. ^ "Cosmic Dawn Center - Research at DAWN". July 19, 2017. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  15. ^ "ADS paper search with aff:"cosmic dawn center"". Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  16. ^ Acciari, V.A.; Ansoldi, S.; Antonelli, L.A.; et al. (November 2019). "Observation of inverse Compton emission from a long γ-ray burst". Nature. 575 (7783): 459–463. arXiv:2006.07251. Bibcode:2019Natur.575..459M. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1754-6. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 31748725. S2CID 208191199.
  17. ^ Watson, D.; Hansen, C.J.; Selsing, J.; et al. (October 2019). "Identification of strontium in the merger of two neutron stars". Nature. 574 (7779): 497–500. arXiv:1910.10510. Bibcode:2019Natur.574..497W. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1676-3. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 31645733. S2CID 204837882.
  18. ^ Izzo, L.; de Ugarte Postigo, A.; Maeda, K.; et al. (January 2019). "Signatures of a jet cocoon in early spectra of a supernova associated with a γ-ray burst". Nature. 565 (7739): 324–327. arXiv:1901.05500. Bibcode:2019Natur.565..324I. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0826-3. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 30651614. S2CID 58014290.
  19. ^ Tanaka, Masayuki; Valentino, Francesco; Toft, Sune; et al. (November 6, 2019). "Stellar Velocity Dispersion of a Massive Quenching Galaxy at z = 4.01". The Astrophysical Journal. 885 (2): L34. arXiv:1909.10721. Bibcode:2019ApJ...885L..34T. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/ab4ff3. ISSN 2041-8213. S2CID 202734496.
  20. ^ a b Professor Ignacio Cirac receives the Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honour, Niels Bohr Institute, January 9, 2013
  21. ^ Aage Petersen, 'the philosophy of Niels Bohr' in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1963, XIX,7, p.10. It is quoted on the inside of the medal box.
  22. ^ Leo Kadanoff receives the Niels Bohr Institute's first honorary medal, Niels Bohr Institute, June 21, 2010
  23. ^ Andre Geim receives Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honour, Niels Bohr Institute, December 8, 2011
  24. ^ Fabiola Gianotti receives the Niels Bohr Institute's honorary medal, Niels Bohr Institute, November 1, 2013
  25. ^ Jérôme Chappellaz receives the Niels Bohr Institute's medal of honour, Niels Bohr Institute, November 26, 2014
  26. ^ Brian Schmidt receives the Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honour, 2015, Niels Bohr Institute, January 29, 2016
  27. ^ Gerard ’t Hooft receives the Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honour, 2016 Archived December 2, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Niels Bohr Institute, November 30, 2016
  28. ^ Jürgen Schukraft receives the Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honour, 2017
  29. ^ Prof. David R. Nelson is awarded the Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honour for 2019
  30. ^ Paul J. Steinhardt is awarded the Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honour 2020
  31. ^ JILA Fellow Jun Ye is awarded the 2021 Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honor

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