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Niels Bohr
Margarethe Bohr
Werner Heisenberg
The Moral Dilemma
The Bohr Letters
Margrethe and Niels Bohr

Margrethe Bohr 1890 - 1984

Margrethe Norlund grew up the daughter of a pharmacist in the small Danish town of Slagelse, some 50 miles south-west of Copenhagen. She was studying French for a private teacher's certificate, when in 1910 she met the brothers Niels and Harald Bohr, friends of her own brothers. A year later she was engaged to Niels, and in 1912 they were married in a brief civil ceremony. They had six sons.
Margrethe acted for years as her husband's assistant, taking dictation and typing the numerous drafts of his scientific papers he was in the habit of producing. She was more than just his assistant, however, she was also a sounding board for many of his scientific ideas.

In the early 30s, the Danish government honored Niels by moving him and his family into the "Residence of Honor," a palatial mansion on the Carlsberg Brewery grounds reserved for the country's foremost scientist. There, Margrethe officiated with great warmth and charm over the many receptions held for visiting scientists and high dignitaries, from England's Queen Elizabeth II to the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

When the Germans occupied Denmark in 1940, life for the Bohrs became difficult. Although Niels was baptized a Christian, his mother was Jewish, marking him in the eyes of the Nazis. Because of this Jewish heritage, and because she did not want her family to appear to be collaborators to the Danes, Margrethe was concerned when Werner Heisenberg came to Copenhagen in 1941 to talk with her husband. In 1943, when the Gestapo rounded up Danish Jews and had orders to arrest Niels, the family divided up and escaped by separate fishing boats to Sweden, where they were reunited. Bohr continued on to England, and then with his son Aage later traveled to America. Margrethe remained in Sweden for the duration of the war with the rest of the family.
After Niels Bohr's death, a friend of the family spoke about Margrethe and Niels' marriage: "It was not luck, rather deep insight, which led him to find in young years his wife, who, as we all know, had such a decisive role in making his whole scientific and personal activity possible and harmonious."
In 1984, thirty-one years after the death of her beloved Niels, Margrethe Bohr passed away at the age of 95.
She is buried with her husband in Copenhagen.

"It is not possible to talk about my father without at the same time emphasizing the importance my mother had. Her opinion and judgement were his main-stay in daily life, and she shared her life with my father in every possible way."-- Hans Bohr




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