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Interview of Betty Schultz by Charles Weiner on 1971 March 25, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4867-1
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A review of the first twenty-five years of the Niels Bohr Institute from its establishment in 1921 as the Institute for Theoretical Physics. Funding for its erection and expansion; grants and stipends for guest scientists; daily life; effect of the World Wars; Nazi occupation of the Institute in 1943 after Niels Bohr’s escape. A number of photographs are looked at and persons identified.
As we were discussing in the previous interview with Paul Forman and Aage Petersen, you have discussed a great deal about Professor Bohr’s style of work, how you came to the Institute and so forth, some of the changes that took place, and this time, perhaps we can try to talk about some other aspects of the Institute. When you came, it was just at the time when the construction was being completed for the present location. You were here in 1921 and it was opened officially I guess in March, 1921.
The thing that I found interesting is that while the new building was being set up, very short1y after that there were p1ans to expand it, even before it was very much in use.
Do you remember when the thinking about that started; anything that you came into contact with?
No. but I think it was in 1926, the building was finished, this building here. It was in 1926. Then we moved over here, Professor Bohr and I moved, not at the same time.
Yes. The grant for expansion was received in November 1923.
That we can find in a book.
I know when the grant was received because I found that in a book, a letter.
No, in a book here. I have the book here.
Good. … This is an account of the funds from the grant?
Yes, it is. I do not know if I can help you with something.
Yes, so this is the Thomas B. Thrige Fund … you have the radium gift here too. It starts, this is already 1935 — oh, I see, it goes earlier, 1924, Rockefeller foundation — well, it shows amounts of money received. That’s very good. This will be helpful in the future. The Insulin Foundation [Laboratory]?
Insulin, oh yes.
I wanted to talk about all this a little later.
There’s another book with all the Carlsberg, yearly grants.
I found some of the Carlsberg material too, letters back and forth. Yours is the register of the funds, and this was just a letter. Well, what I was interested in was, in the initial raising of money in order to get the land for the original Institute, there were a number of local people involved — Aage Berleme —
Berleme; he was a school friend of Professor Bohr, and he procured money among his own friends and gave a great deal himself and gave also the land to the university.
Did you meet him? Did he come here ever?
Berleme? Yes. The first day we moved out here, Professor Bohr and Hendrik Kramers and I and Berleme, we had coffee together downstairs in Professor Bohr’s room, and it was the very first day here.
I see. He really felt part of the Institute.
Yes, at that time.
I noticed in this letter they sent out, a printed letter when they were raising funds in 1917, that Ber1eme’s name is on it, but there are some other names. Some I recognize, some not. I wonder if you came into contact with any at these other people.
No, I have not been in contact with them [Knud Faber], but of course I remember them. Harald [Hoffding] — it was the man who lived in the Carlsberg is AEresbolig before Professor Bohr — a philosopher, yes. No, I’ve never seen them.
You don’t recall any conversations that took place about getting more money? Berleme went to New York in 1923 where Professor Bohr also went a little later, and there was a man there, I wonder if you know who he is — his name is Lundsgaard.
He was a professor here at the university.
I see. Then he was in New York; he must have been in medicine.
Yes, he was in medicine.
Do you recall him coming to the Institute? Was he close?
Not so close, no. I have seen him, but only one or two times.
The reason I’m asking is because he wrote a letter from New York helping to make the arrangements to get the grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
From the Rockefeller — the first time it was from International Education Fund.
Yes, but it was really their money, Rockefeller money.
It was Rockefeller money, yes.
There was a man by the name of Flexner. Do you —?
I’ve heard the name.
He never came here, Abraham Flexner?
I don’t think so.
One other man who took a trip through Europe about that time, who was with Rockefeller Foundation. I wonder if you knew him. His name was Wickliffe Rose.
Oh yes, I remember the name, Wickliffe Rose, yes.
He did visit here.
I don’t think I’ve seen him.
He came on a tour of Europe and he was the one who developed the idea of Rockefeller Fellowships, which brought the fellows here.
That was just a couple of questions about that period. What I’m interested in also was the idea that Professor Bohr had that this would be an international center.
Did he have any discussions about that, do you recall?
No. He began at once to invite people, Adalbert Rubinowicz from Poland and Hevesy from Hungary and so he began at once inviting people from other countries. Then it grew very quickly.
In the case of Rubinowicz for example from Poland, how was it that he selected him?
I think he wrote himself, whether he could come.
To study with Bohr.
When he came, was he a young man? Had he done his degree already?
I think he was not so young. Now he is 80 years. He must have been very young. I did not find him so young at that time. But we can see in the correspondence, at the beginning, whether he asked if he could come or Professor Bohr invited him.
Right. I was just curious to know if you had recalled any conversation or anything like that.
He came, and we can check about exactly how long they stayed, that’s no problem.
Hevesy stayed long. Rubinowicz was not too long.
I notice there were some publications during the first period of time when both of them were here. Kramers of course was already —
He was before the Institute was erected.
Right. Gee, I don’t find any so far, any publications of Rubinowicz. I’m looking for his publications. They’re not listed here through 1926. That’s funny.
You know we have in the other back room; there are old Kramer’s papers. You know?
Yes. That’s fascinating. Also from outside at that time, Dirk Coster came.
He was working with [Manne] Siegbahn? I guess at the time.
Had Professor Bohr been in touch with him before he came?
I don’t think so. But I saw him for the first time in 1920. He was here with his wife. It was an evening party by Professor Bohr.
And then he came to work here.
Now, who else was here at the time? There were some Danes. There was Hansen.
Professor H. M. Hansen, yes.
Then there was — when did J. C. Jacobsen come? Just about that time too?
A little after that time. He was a student when we saw him at first. Then he began to come to the Institute. It must also have been 1921. Yes, it must have been 1921.
Now, at that time, 1921, you had Kramers here — I tried to get the complete list Kramers and you had Hevesy I wonder if he was here then?
Hevesy, and Rubinowicz — and [Oskar] Klein was here, and [Svein] Rosseland.
Rosseland was here. Was he here as a guest?
No, he was here on a stipend, for a year I think, in 1920.
That’s the question that gets me a little confused — whether people who were had definite responsibilities, or it was understood that they would be doing certain things.
I don’t think…
Did they have anyone to teach, any classes teaching?
No. They had no lectures at all, no, none of them.
Would there be any students coming to work with them here?
I do not know, because that I did not see. It may be the experimental people, Jacobsen and Werner, they worked here. They may have had students to work with them, one or two, not many.
Jacobsen and Werner you talked about as experimental. Did they work pretty much together, the two of them?
Jacobsen and — no, he worked by himself, I think. But a little later came Werner, and he worked with H. M. Hansen and with Takomine, when Takomine has come...
That’s one of the things I wanted to get at. When people were here, there weren’t too many rooms, even with the new place.
There were not so many rooms at that time. It was only that building. Nothing else.
Was there just one experimental room or were there several?
Shultz: No, some and not many. Small ones in the basement still. And in the first floor, out there. And the auditorium was there too, the auditorium, and Professor Bohr’s office, Kramers’ office and my office. And the library was there.
In the same place as it is now?
The next floor I think, the library was at that time.
Just curious about how things would go in the daytime; if I would have walked in there on a typical day when all those people were around, what would I have seen? Would they be together? Would they be working separately?
Separately — but I don’t know so much about it. You see, I was in my office or in the library or in Professor Bohr’s office, not in the experimental rooms.
Did many of them come up to Professor Bohr’s office? Or did he — in other words, did they meet with him? Did they have meetings every once in a while?
Yes, they came and asked him for something, sometimes.
Were there any regular meetings of the entire group there?
No, I don’t think, at that time. There were so few people, it was not necessary to call for a meeting.
We’re talking now about the 1920s.
Oh, the 1920s, yes, then came more people.
How about the administrative problems, things like that? Who would Bohr consu1t with about those problems?
With whom he consulted? I think he consulted H. M. Hansen very much. They spoke very much together. But mostly I think with practical problems about the Institute and establishment of the laboratories and such.
I notice on the application to the Rockefeller Foundation, to the International Education Board, that Hansen prepared a special supplement to the application giving a history of the Institute, and a description of its scientific work and its emergence. I think it’s in there somewhere, I haven’t found it, but the letter refers to it.
That was when Hansen — yes.
Presumably you would type such applications and letters.
Yes, it must be me, because there was nobody else.
It was well done. As far as the relationship to the university itself goes, were there many reports that had to be done?
No. I don’t think there were any reports to the university.
Did Professor Bohr have to participate in some university committees and things of that type?
Not very much. No.
There was in the file in the back room certain lists — the consistorian of the university, which is like the governing body of a university — there was a file of reports and minutes from those meetings.
Then there was another file from the Kvesturen. The money —
— oh yes.
I notice there were certain kinds of simple things which had to do with the number of assistants, who was permanent, the ones that were paid, and the ones that weren’t paid.
Yes. Not many assistants at that time.
But still apparently you have to account for these people to the university.
And there was a shop for the first time — with [Carl] Olsen as the prime person of the workshop.
I see. Well, that’s an interesting part of it too. So if I had come in here during the day, I would have seen someone in the shop also would have been there.
Did he have anyone working with him?
He has pupils [students] in his first years, one or two pupils in the workshop. But the very first workshop was in the building where the Mathematical Institute is now, because the building was not finished at that time. They made instruments for the institute in that little wooden building there.
I see. So he would be working there, and Jacobsen would be working in some room.
And you had [Sven] Werner later, and you had Hansen, Kramers -–
— Kramers, Takomine — yes, —
Of those, Hansen, Kramers and Takomine — did they get together and have discussions during the day? Did you see much of them?
No, I’d not seen anything. It may be. But I couldn’t see it because they were downstairs.
So you would see them if they came up to Professor Bohr’s office.
Yes. Yes. And when they had made some work and should have it typed, then they came up to me.
Getting back to reports, were there any reports you’d have to make to the Rask Orsted Foundation, to the Ministry of Education?
Yes. Yes, there were letters to these and applications to them.
The applications, this was for people to come to work here, to get some extra money?
Do you recall how that was done? Was it just to write a letter, there is a young man who wants to visit?
Yes, and he is working on these things, and he wants to come. I have a book on Rask Orsted Fona also.
Let’s see, this page is 1938 — oh, it goes earlier. It indicates the name of the person and the amount of the stipend and the dates, so people like T. L. Laslett and Hilde Levi and Rosenfeld…
That was much later.
Yes. That’s the page I’m looking at. See, Tom Lauritsen on this page here, 1945.
Yes, that’s much later,
And this book also includes –-
Yes, that’s good. Who kept the books?
This is your handwriting. Well, that was something I wasn’t aware of, that in addition to your work with the everyday business and letters and manuscripts, that you also were the book keeper of the institute.
Yes, and cashier and everything. Yes. Also the money.
What happened if someone wanted money for to buy a small part for a machine or something?
No, we had to… (interruption)
I think one [list] is visitors and the other is the ones who supported with stipends from Rask-Orsted — I don’t know what this one is?
It seems to be all the people who were here at that time, because here I have written Carlsberg and there Rockefeller, and there American-Scandinavian Foundation…They have got stipends from other places but also some from Rask Orsted Fonden.
Those are some lists I’ve been looking for.
We were lucky just to find it. I couldn’t tell you where it was.
It came right in the beginning of this account book. We might want to look at this. I might want to look at it later. So it would be possible to put together all the various notes on this to find out exactly the amount of money, the number of people each year.
The amount of money? In all the 50 years? No.
Let’s say, for the first 20 years, you could see how much the Rask-Orsted gave to the Institute, how many people came as a result of that and so forth.
Oh, yes. Yes.
And their names and what countries they were from. So that’s very good. I have to spend some time on that.
It‘s not written there the —
I know that —
— yes, I think also I remember it.
No, It’s not, just their names, but I know in almost every case who they are in the early years. This gives the dates, which is more important.
Yes, and we can find it in the book.
In the guest book, yes.
Guest book. That you have seen. There you can see —
— yes, I’ve already used that —
— there you can see where they come from.
Getting back to what’s going on here during the day, I want to get to know a little about the people and their style of work. For example, would everyone have regular hours when they would come in in the morning and leave in the evening?
Yes. There is nothing called regularity in this house! There will never be. People come and go when they like. Except Professor Bohr and me, we came in the morning and worked — and Professor Bohr was here most of the day, and the workshop, but otherwise not.
So people like Hevesy, for example, or Kramers —
Hevesy, he came not so early, but 9 or 10 o’clock, and was very very angry when his assistants had not come.
He would expect them to keep regular hours.
Yes, and Hevesy for his part, he should be here, in the morning, every day…
What about J. C. Jacobsen? Would he work pretty regularly?
I do not know, because Jacobsen was a man of very very few words. He didn’t say anything to anybody. One time, I think it was 1935, Professor Bohr procured a Rockefeller stipend for him to go to England, and they would only give it for a whole year but Jacobsen wanted to have it for half a year. So it was a very difficult task for Professor Bohr to procure it. But he succeeded, and then he was very glad, and he said to me, “Oh, I will go downstairs and tell Jacobsen at once.” He went downstairs, and came up to me again, and I said, “What did Jacobsen say?” “Oh,” Professor Bohr said, “he said no, no.”[I see!] I said, “I thought he had said, hm.”
That was the most he ever said. He did not thank Professor Bohr for all his trouble. He said, “No.” [I see!]
Did they ever talk about scientific matters between them?
No. He must have said a little more, but he was a man of very few words.
You say he worked by himself, he had no others?
Yes. I do not remember them. Later on he had the cyclotron you know and then he had assistants there, but for the first years, I do not remember that he worked with them.
And [Ebbe] Rasmussen?
He came regularly too. Not so much. He worked on spectroscopy.
Did he work with others?
Yes, at least later. I do not remember the first years, but later he had some assistants. And he was a very great help to Professor Bohr, in practical things. [Ebbe] Rasmussen. He was the best help he has ever had, better [Jorgen] Boggila and the others.
What do you mean?
He helped Professor Bohr with everything, the letters and the applications and all those things.
He was really helping on these administrative chores.
Yes. Yes. He was very helpful in administration.
In a different way than Hansen was?
It was not — for many years Hansen was not belonging to the Institute. He came over here, but he had his own institute a few years later, and came only sometimes. But Rasmussen was appointed to the Institute.
So you said he was the most important help on practical matters.
Yes. Hansen was the first years, we had no Rasmussen. That was Bohr and Hansen.
Then when Rasmussen came, he began to get involved in the practical work too.
— in practical work, so there was some help Bohr had on these things from other people.
Yes, of course. Professor Bohr must have a person. He did not ever work alone. He must have a person sitting and saying — yes or no. I couldn’t say much more, but he says, “Do you agree” “Yes.” And a little after he said something else… Only here, listen to him say a little. He couldn’t work alone.
Even on practical matters, on administrative matters. Did he give much attention to these administrative matters?
Much attention. If there was one letter wrong, he had to do the whole thing over. He paid so much attention to it, and he said “It is therefore we have … so much money during the year… because we write such good letters and applications.” I do not think that is the reason. I think the reason is that it is signed Niels Bohr… “Oh, no, no, it’s because the letters are so finely well written.”
Any indication from other people whether these letters themselves were effective, or whether you were right about the name?
It must be the people who worked with Professor Bohr (???) was — some following of course — Heisenberg and Klein, Klein for many years, and [Hendrik] Kramers and Rasmussen, and later [Stefan] Rozental.
On the practical things, Rozental…
Yes. Oh, yes.
Did Heisenberg ever help?
No, no, no. He has so many scientific things of his own. He was not here to help Professor Bohr so much. But he wasn’t so long here; only a short time. Professor Bohr later had Fritz Kalckar.
The one who died in the 1980s.
He died. He was also a great help to Bohr.
So these were people who were scientists working at the Institute, but who would also share some of the practical things.
Oh yes. Yes.
Did any of them every have any position which — that’s what they are? For example, was there such a thing as an assistant to Professor Bohr?
They were all assistants.
They were all assistants, but I mean, someone who was what we would call now administrative assistant.
No. Some of them, Dr. degrees, Jacobsen, Werner, Rasmussen, all of them. They were dr. phil. assistants at the Institute.
When they took their degrees, was it separate from here? Did anyone actually earn his decree by working here? In other words, did they have to present a thesis?
Yes, I think. I think they did. They got here and then they made their doctor’s dissertation.
I see. Do you recall whether Professor Bohr had to sit on these committees to judge the doctoral dissertations?
Yes, I think he did. They were sent to him, the doctoral dissertations, yes, and he had also to judge them.
Do you know if this happened very often? Did it take much of his time?
It took some time, but those were not so many doctors here from the Institute. But everyone took very much time. Of course it was made so carefully.
Yes, very very carefully.
When you take a look at Professor Bohr’s time schedule and you compare the amount of time he put into scientific work, and the amount of time that was taken for practical questions, how can you say what percentage went for each?
I think that would be impossible to say, because sometimes he worked, if there should be built something new, that we should send in applications — this was of course the practical work of the time — otherwise, the scientific work.
Was he ever able to work on both the same day?
Oh yes, if it should be necessary, he could.
Did he do most of the scientific work at home or here?
Both. Both things. In his last years he worked very much at home because he had also a secretary there, Mrs. Tanggaard and he had Aage Petersen there, and worked very much at home. And in the first years he lived here, you see. He lived in that building also, so some of it was done in his office and some things in his flat.
But always with another person, or generally with another person?
Yes. It was the same person for some time.
That’s what I mean, not a different person but that in working he always had someone with him.
Yes, he did. He had much pleasure in Professors Rasmussen and Kalckar and me, only one of us now with Professor Bohr — and when he told us something, he said “Oh, it is very confidential, it must not, no no — then he spoke to Kalckar — “It’s quite confidential,” and then to Rasmussen. And then we three talked about it, of course.
That would be about practical things?
Yes. Yes, and plans for the future and those things.
Was there any problem about the fact that it was such an international place you had after the First World War? Demark was neutral but still you had people from Germany and other countries coming in.
Yes, after the war — yes.
Was there any reaction from people about that, not at the Institute of course but on the outside? Did that bother anyone?
No, I never heard it.
In your routine, would you get many interruptions from outside? Telephone calls, inquiries?
Yes. Yes, in the beginning, I had a very very small office in this building, at the end of this building, and the telephone was at that time one right here and one in the workshop. Therefore I had all the telephone calls.
What kind of business was involved on those calls? Who would be calling?
People who would speak with somebody, then I had to call them. I do not remember — ask something about Bohr, and then he would come and — such things…
Regular things. You didn’t get any from the public or anyone else calling the Institute to know about physics? Nothing like that?
No, I don’t think so. Yes, great many people but they were crazy. They wanted to know: or we had a great many letters from crazy persons who wanted to know something about atoms and Professor Bohr’s work and so on.
You would have that. How would you handle that?
Put them there. Sometimes we answered them but not very often, because then they continued to come. There came also many people to the door and wanted to know something, or asked Professor Bohr for money.
Why did they ask him for money?
They had read in the papers that he had gotten the Nobel Prize and then there came stacks of letters asking him for money. Yes, from Danes.
It was a difficult time.
Of course when they met Professor Bohr, he gave them something. When they got me, I said no. But sometimes they were lucky to find Professor Bohr himself and then they got something. Yes, for everything. One person wanted to go to a husband in another country. Another wanted a sewing machine, money for that. Another wanted to have food. They were different.
On the prize, do you recall whether he had expected it, had heard anything about it before it actually —?
I don’t think he had heard anything about it before.
What was the first you heard of it, the first news you had, that he was going to get it?
I don’t remember. Remember, it is 50 years ago.
I mean, was there any celebration at the Institute?
Not as far as I remember.
There was nothing special.
There must have been some happiness and excitement.
Yes, of course, Yes.
What about the newspapers? Today we were sitting and you got a call from someone connected with some radio —
Yes, of course.
Was there much of that?
Yes, they telephoned and asked for interviews.
When did that start, after the prize?
I think earlier dates, but mostly after the prize.
Now, the prize was just at the time that the Hafnium business started. I’m curious if you recall much about that. First of all, did [Dirk] Coster work very much with Professor Bohr? I noticed they had some publications …
Yes, but mostly with Hevesy.
What kind of person was Coster, was he… You mentioned Jacobsen was pretty much by himself, he did not say anything.
Was Coster —
He was more as ordinary people are, a very kind man.
Spoke Danish right away?
I don’t remember. I don’t think no, because Hevesy didn’t speak either, at the beginning. They spoke German or English together. Hevesy spoke a very peculiar language — a mixture of Hungarian, German and Danish and Swedish — just like George Gamow. It was Gamowian, yes.
So that would be the question of finding some third language in order for the people who were at the institute to communicate. But there was no problem then, they would generally speak German?
At the beginning they spoke German, but later not. Then only English.
When do you think the change took place?
At least about the Second World War. After that time, nobody spoke German. It was before — at the beginning, they also published a good deal in German journals, but later it went to England and America.
On the Hafnium business, do you recall anything about the work, whether and how Professor Bohr felt —
I remember it was such a busy time for me, because I should type also for Hevesy and the others too. There was so much to do at that time.
So this was the first time that a lot of publications were coming out from the institute.
Let’s see, the list in 1922 — a number of papers of Professor Bohr, and Coster had two big papers on his own and Hevesy had three and Jacobsen with Johannes Olsen —
Olsen, oh yes, it was another Olsen. It was a man from the Meteorological Institute; he later went to Greenland.
Yes, and he just worked with Jacobsen on a particular paper.
Yes — a little, but Olsen was not here, he was at the Polyteknisk Laereanstalt and only worked on something with Jacobsen. He was never appointed to the Institute.
I see. There was also a man by the name of Thorsen here —
Yes, it was, yes — he took his examination here, Thorsen and was appointed to the institute for a short time.
I see. Thorsen was just here for a short time. And he did experimental work. Then the next year in 1923, that means his articles were published in 1923 so they were probably written at the end of 1922.
Yes, it was 1922 and 1923, all the hafnium…
There are so many Coster and Hevesy together, and then Bohr does one with Coster, then by 1923 we have [Yoshio] Nishina, Werner and Coster working together on it.
I see the list of publications for 1923 is one of the longest.
Yes, you can believe it was a busy time and it was I who should type it.
On the hafnium, do you remember… was there a lot of excitement in Denmark?
Shultz: Oh yes, I think the newspapers thought a good deal [highly] about it. Not the ordinary people; they did not understand much about it.
But this occurred right at the time of the Nobel Prize. I wonder if you recall whether Professor Bohr felt that there was change, if it changed his outlook.
I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so.
It maybe gave him courage to go ahead and expand the institute. That’s what happened right after.
Yes, but it came of itself, because there came more and more people. It was necessary to expand the institute.
Now, I don’t know if we should stop… now, to continue — I know that the first annual meeting, the annual conference, Actual Atomic Problems; current atomic problems were started in 1929. Had there been any kinds of scientific meetings at the institute before that?
I don’t think so — he began these annual meetings — I don’t think there had been — some people came, but only a few of them. You can see it in the visitor’s book that many people came for a very short time but not for a conference. That was also seen in the book.
When many many people came at the same date then there was a conference.
This was all within a few years. I have the files for most of the conferences that I found in the back room, so then I compare that list with the guest book and so I have pretty accurate… but in the earlier years, there were no regular meetings, just a few people would get together.
You said there was an auditorium from the start. How often was that used then?
It was used for the lectures for the students.
That’s what I wanted to get at. Where did the students come from… You said they didn‘t have lectures, that people on the staff didn’t have teaching responsibilities.
Yes, later they had, and Professor Bohr had, and Kramers had had lectures. Kramers was a lecturer later, not in the very first years, but later. He gave lectures for students, and Heisenberg gave them when he came. He was also a lecturer, after Kramers.
I see — in much the same way as they did in later years, where they would just announce that Professor Heisenberg would give a series of lectures on this subject?
And also, then the auditorium became the room for the meetings too.
The first meeting was in 1929. Do you have any recollection of how it was started or why it was started, just where the idea came from?
From Professor Bohr.
He just felt that he wanted to have a meeting?
Yes. Yes. You see, he wanted to see some of the people who had been here, and some new people.
Do you recall his saying that, any discussion of things like that?
Did he have in mind just a reunion of this type, or was he interested in talking about some special problems that bothered him?
I do not know what they spoke about. I have never heard the lectures.
This one Rosenfeld described in his little anniversary —
Yes Rosenfeld. He was not here in the first years, of course, Rosenfeld came much later.
He was invited to that lecture. That was the first time they met.
No, no [I see!]
He was invited by Kramers — or someone, I don’t know who it was, brought him as a guest.
Then, these became regular things, and was there any discussion in the staff here about when it should be, who should come?
Yes, I think so.
You don’t remember yourself being involved in that.
So you came into the picture when it was time to write letters to invite people, is that it?
How did that work? Were you given a list of names?
I don’t remember the first years.
What I’m trying to find out is if he sat down with someone and drew up a list of all the names that he wanted at the conference, or whether it was just a gradual —
No, they spoke about it, and somebody brought one or two persons with them when they came or one of their own pupils [students].
But he knew whom he wanted because the letters would go out in advance. I’ve seen these letters which said, “Dear Ehrenfest, we’re trying to hold a small conference.” Usually there was a lot of correspondence between you and them, working out the arrangements of it. Some people were given some money for their travel.
Yes from Rask Orsted, yes.
Did you arrange for the place for them to stay?
Yes, in the first years, yes. We had a boarding house near Langelinie [on the seafront] and many of them lived there and Pension Berg and other boarding houses we could put them in. At that time, they came only — they came alone. Later on, people who worked here came with their families, and they did not do with a boarding house any longer.
But just for a conference —
Yes, then they came alone, most of them.
As far as you remember the meetings, there were letters written to invite people —
— no, I don’t remember —
— and arrangements, but there was never any report? You don’t remember typing up any report of the meeting? I never found one.
No I don’t. I don’t think there was any.
Just in the heads and the notes of individuals who were there.
I did find in Lise Meitner’s papers her notebook of one of the meetings here in 1932, given in her own terrible notes, showing, you know, which one said what and what she thought, some of the data from the experiments. It was very interesting.
Now, as far as the planning of it, for example if Rasmussen was helping him during that period, he would also help in the planning of the meeting too. They would help Bohr.
Yes, and his assistants, too. Yes. Yes.
And the guests would just come and find their rooms —
Yes, or somebody went to the station and met them and told them where they should go.
As far as any parties or social life go, was there any kind of meal they’d have together?
Yes, they were as a rule invited to Professor Bohr’s, some evening or afternoon or, I do not remember from the very beginning, but there was an excursion with buses to the North of Sidland to see the castles there, at Frederiksborg and Kronborg and Fredensborg and then they went sometimes to a restaurant and get lunch, and afterwards sometimes to Tisvilde to Professor Bohr’s house to have tea — not every year, not from the very beginning, but sometimes.
I see. And then of course if some of them were staying at the same place here, they would have their own social arrangements. They could have a party or go out on the town to visit.
Oh yes. Yes.
Well, that’s good on the meetings that I wanted to know. On the foundations, do you remember any people from Carlsberg or Rask Orsted coming to the Institute to discuss matters?
There was as man…
— no, I don’t think so —
— I’ve forgotten his name.
In Rask Orsted there was for many years Professor Norlund who was head of it and Professor Bohr spoke with him about it.
That’s not the brother-in-law?
Yes, it is, of — yes it’s his brother-in-law. Mrs. Bohr’s eldest brother.
I see, Norlund. And he was the head of the Rask Orsted Foundation?
Yes, for some time, yes.
What was his background?
He was a mathematical professor, and he was president of the Geodetic Institute, that was his institute.
He also had this other position as, what was it, chairman of the fund, or the committee?
Yes, he was chairman of the foundation, I think — yes, he was.
So there would be some discussion with him. Would he come here to the Institute?
Not very much. He has been, of course, because Professor — well, he came to his, at least I’ve seen him out here, but not very much.
Who would he be in touch with on the Carlsberg? There’s a name that I have written somewhere - begins with a B.
Begins with a B? On Carlsberg Foundation?
I’m afraid I don’t have it here. It was a man who —
Oh yes, now I know, [Niels] Bjerrum.
Yes, that’s the one. He was a friend of Professor Bohr?
He was a very near close friend of Professor Bohr.
Was that an old friendship from early days?
It was an old friendship, and they went out every summer sailing. Bjerrum had a boat and Bohr, Bjerrum and Chievitz and one or two more went out every summer, until that accident happened with that boat and with Professor Bohr’s son.
That was the summer of 1934. We were talking about Professor Bjerrum and his position as professor of chemistry and at one time director of the agricultural and veterinary high school. The proper name in Danish was what?
Den kongelige veterindr aog Landbohojskoh.
He was also a close friend of Professor Bohr from way back and he was also on some group of the Carlsberg Foundation.
Yes, he was.
Do you remember him coming here and having to discuss things?
I’ve seen him, not very often, but he has been here. I think Bohr as a rule spoke with Bjerrum when he wanted to get some money from the Carlsberg Foundation. He spoke with Bjerrum first.
Just in conversation, you mean.
Yes, and what he thought about it, and the possibilities for it.
How much time and effort was taken up with all this raising of funds? Do you think it bothered him very much, in terms of —?
Not so much, of course there was a great deal — it should be written and typed ten times, very long, before it was quite satisfactory. It took some time. But it gave some money. Yes.
There also were questions of the Thrige Foundation. How did he know to approach them?
I think it was when he wanted to have the cyclotron. He had been in California and seen the cyclotron of Lawrence and then he wanted to have a cyclotron, and it was a great firm who could make it, Thrige. It was one of the greatest firms at the time, and they made it, and I think they presented the Institute with the cyclotron [as a present].
With the major of the magnet for it most especially.
The magnet, yes.
And some other things. But you don’t know if there had been any personal contact with Thomas B. Thrige before –-
In the presidency of Thomas, there was a lawyer Albert V. Jorgensen, he was a very close friend of Professor Bohr from the school, from childhood and he was in the Thrige Foundation.
The lawyer was in the foundation.
The lawyer, yes. So Bohr spoke with him when he wanted something of Thrige.
I see. And that foundation was already set up. It had already been in business for —
— yes, I think it must have been.
Well, then there was the Carlsberg, Thrige and the Rask Orsted. In each case, you could do something on a personal basis.
Yes, at first, yes.
That’s interesting. It saves a lot of trouble, doesn’t it?
Yes — of course. Yes. Ask Albert V. Jorgensen if he thinks it possible to get something from Thrige, and then he said yes, then —
— try Thrige. Yes.
Yes, Thrige, yes.
Well, on these foundations, were some of them more liberal with their accounting than others were? Did some of them require very strict record keeping?
Which ones were those?
All of them. All of them. Just up until what shall I say, three or four years ago. Now the Carlsberg Fund does not want any strict accounting not any more. But up to that, quite — it should cover just the amount that had been given.
And you had to keep the receipts to show that you in fact spent it for –-
Yes, and send them in, send the accounting in as well as all the receipts. We had to.
And the Rask Orsted did —
Also Rask Orsted. They were not so strict. This would not be so every year. But they should have accountings, all of them.
The biggest money came from Carlsberg, though.
Yes. For the longest time, also from the very beginning.
Also from the Rockefeller Foundation.
A little later, yes.
In the middle of the 1930s there began to be an interest in biological problems.
Do you recall anything about that?
I think it was something with Max Delbruck — he switched over to be a biologist. He was a physicist at first. There’s a long correspondence with Delbruck at that time.
You think that Delbruck helped influence Professor Bohr on this? Do you know of him talking about biological questions? Do you recall Professor Bohr ever saying anything to you?
No. I only remember that he lost Delbruck, who went to biology, and he corresponded very much with Professor Bohr about it.
Hevesy did some of his work — the isotopes were provided by biological —
— yes, Hevesy too, yes, yes.
On the building of the cyclotron, it seems to me that’s a great big change.
It’s because it’s much bigger, it’s more complicated, it’s more of a big engineering job, requires a whole room for itself.
Was it seen as a normal thing to do, or were there a big discussions about it?
Yes, I think there must have been a lot of big discussions. It was something quite new, for people here.
You mentioned a trip to the United States. One trip was 1933 — in 1923 there was another, but I’m thinking of 1933 when he did see the cyclotron.
Yes, he made a trip at that time and saw the cyclotron.
In connection with those trips, was there a lot of work for you? Did you have much to do in preparation?
Yes, before, yes, of course. Sometimes he wrote latest words at the station, at the train.
You mean to finish up some scientific paper?
Yes, anything we did.
He was always behind.
Yes, of course, yes.
Then on the trips themselves, how would you keep in touch with him? Would you keep letting him know about things that were going on here?
Yes. Yes, sometimes. I or Professor Rasmussen or somebody later wrote to him, and later Boggila and Rozental wrote to him, telling what happened in the Institute…
When did Boggild start helping on the practical things?
I do not remember.
Was it from the beginning of the time he came?
No, no, no. Not at all. He came much later. He was at Professor Hansen’s laboratory for many years. Boggila; he was assistant here from 1940.
That was already later, that was after Rozental.
Yes. Oh yes. Rozental went to Sweden about 1940, when the war broke-out, yes.
I think that brings me to the question I wanted to ask you about — yes, about the beginning of the problem in Germany, where, with Hitler coming in.
Yes, it was in the 1930s.
1933 is when it happened. I know quite a bit about the work to aid the refugees that Professor Bohr got involved with. Do you recall how he got started on this? Do you recall the first time he talked about this?
No, but his brother was also very much active in this, and they worked hard on these things, both of them.
I know, I’ve been reading the letters all over the wor1d about this, and — at that time I think Rasmussen was in Germany.
Yes. Was that in? Yes.
I found a letter from Rasmussen telling of the conditions there.
It must have been 1933 or 1934 Rasmussen was in Germany for a year. Yes, that’s right.
It was that year, 1933, because I found that. It occurred to me that that could have been very important because he wrote about the conditions there.
Oh yes, yes, yes. He worked with Professor Paschen and suddenly Professor Paschen was dismissed, I think.
[Johannes] Stark had something to do with that. That letter tells about that.
Yes. I remember it also from the letters.
There’s a letter from Paschen writing to Bohr, for a letter of recommendation. Of all people, to need a letter of recommendation! Then the work got started — do you recal1 anything about the local committee here? There was a Danish committee.
No, it was mostly Professor Harald Bohr who took care of that.
There was Aage Fris, did you know him?
Oh yes, not much but I remember him, oh yes.
Would they come here to discuss these things?
Yes. I’ve seen him here, but not too much.
How did all of this affect Professor Bohr? Did he talk about it very much?
Yes, he did talk about it. It was a great thing and he was really very worried [bekymret]… has taken my Danish-English dictionary.
What is the word in Danish? — does it mean concerned?
Concerned, yes, now you have it. Concerned of course, yes. He was much concerned about all these people. And many of them came here, you know, and some of them stayed and some of them went away. Professor Bohr helped them to get positions other-where. In America.
I know even on that trip in 1933 he used part of his time there to talk with people about it.
Yes, to talk with them.
In 1934, just after there was that terrible accident [his son’s death], he was supposed to go to London to an international conference of physics.
Do you remember anything about that?
No. Only that he had many plans. He should also go to Japan. It was an old plan, he should go to Japan, but he couldn’t do it, of course. It had to wait till the next son and his student exams. Then they went to Japan and took him along. Christian should have been with them, the son who died… should have been to Japan.
I see. So he waited then till the next son was old enough.
Hans went with him. That meeting they didn’t go to, I found some things in the archives about his being elected to the presidency of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. Millikan sent him the telegram, and then he replied, “Thank you for the honor,” but apparently this was a misunderstanding because he didn’t want anything to do with an international group that had excluded Germany from the time of the war.
Do you recall anything about that?
No. I don’t.
This was something he felt very deeply. You don’t recall any discussion…well the letter is good.
Yes, there are letters about it.
Now, as to the guests, this was on my mind — you must have a list. There are numbers of guests over the years. How would they come? Would they just write a letter and say they were interested in coming?
Yes, some of them did, yes. And had recommendations where they came from, from Heisenberg or somebody else.
Would it usually be that the professor, say Heisenberg, would write Bohr to say “I have a student —?”
Yes, also that. Sometimes the man wrote himself and had a recommendation from somebody who had been here.
How would the decision be made then? It seems to me, there might have been some discussions about, how many can we have?
This kind of thing.
But no, Professor Bohr said almost always yes, we’ll manage.
Anyone who wanted to come?
Yes, with a recommendation, and he [Bohr] should know a little about him. But sometimes they were also somebody who was not welcome, of course.
The people who were not welcome — these were the people who either had no recommendation, or had a bad recommendation?
I remember only one. I do not quite remember what he was called. A very young man, and he wrote to [Christian] Moller and asked if he could come. Moller did not know anything about him and did not think he was anything. And he wrote no, we had no room. Nevertheless the fellow came. He must be here [he said] and he did nothing good, and he only did it to say that he had worked at Professor Bohr’s Institute. And he rented a flat, a furnished flat, and destroyed the furniture in such a way that Rozenta1 wrote to him, “We have never had a man like you and we hope never to get such a man again.”
This was after the war?
Yes, it must have been after the war, yes. I do not remember what he was called.
But otherwise, the people generally would want to come and it’s interesting to me that there was always space. What if you had more people than you had room for?
Always, they found space for them, nevertheless.
So that worked out. What about their money, their funds?
Some of them had money from their own country, and some of them from Rask Orsted Fona. There were also some other foundations who gave something, not too much, but some other funds paid something.
Then a decision would have to be made, because a man writes and he has a good recommendation but you can’t get funds for everyone. You have to decide which ones you’re going to —
Yes. They wrote, whether they could pay for themselves or whether they could not, and then one must try to get something. Sometimes — mostly it was successful. Professor Bohr succeeded in procuring money for them.
What if someone would write, he had a recommendation, but it seems to me Professor Bohr wouldn’t want to go to that trouble just for anyone who wrote.
I think he did.
As long as someone wanted to come here and had a good recommendation, then he would say, “I’ll try to get money.”
Yes, if it was possible to procure money.
And then to do that, he would, do you remember, was it some kind of a formal application he would have to make for Rask Orsted?
Yes. It was a form application — a big application should be filled out.
By whom? Who would have to do that?
He would do it to get money for that man.
Yes. They also paid some of the conferences. Professor Bohr must also fill out such a thing and ask for money for that conference.
That would be a good place to get some more details on the conferences, find those letters and see what he said about them. It would give an idea of how well he was planning the conference. Generally I think he just said a conference on current atomic problems.
Yes, and new problems.
He used the word “aktnel.” The translation of that, you could say in English “actual” but it would be more exact to say “current.”
But the letters that went out sometimes said “actual atomic problems.”
I found a lot of them so I didn’t understand them at first.
Oh, that’s not an English word, no.
It’s an English word but not in that connection. But everyone understood. They came.
Yes, and all the people seemed to like to stay here. Almost all people, I think, had a good time.
How would you account for that?
They wrote and thanked, and after many years they wrote again and remembered the good time they had.
Because of the atmosphere?
The atmosphere, and Professor Bohr’s hospitality and inspiration, yes.
That’s understandable. Was there any attempt, do you know, to make sure that there was some balance between the different countries? For example, some years a lot of people from France or Germany applied.
You wouldn’t worry about that.
What about the field of their work, what about the number of people —
It was only the current work which was interesting. People who worked on these problems came. And it was not a question where they came from… but not many Frenchmen have been here.
I looked down the list and I can give you the names — Rosenblum and… (crosstalk) Solomon but not many, very few.
Very few. Leon Brillouin has been here for some time and Michel I think in the later years.
For a while there was Pontecorvo for one or two years, [Hansvon] Halban.
Wasn’t he English, Halban?
He’s German. Then he went to Paris and then to England with [Lew] Kowarski when the Germans came into Paris, then they went to Canada and so forth.
And his wife was later married to [George] Placzek.
Yes. Placzek was here many times?
Yes, he was here many times. He’s a very old friend of the Institute.
He didn’t have any permanent position in the 1930s.
I think he had money enough himself, and didn’t need to have any permanent position.
Everyone says about him that he kept these crazy hours, worked nights and so forth.
Yes. Yes. But he was a very nice man. He was here at the same time as [Victor] Weisskopf, and those two, two young men, rented a flat and a lady to keep the flat for them, until Weisskopf had no more money.
We talked about the balance of the meetings. You said anyone would be invited who was working on those problems. What about the guests? What happened some year when you had more guests from one country? Was there any committee, any decision and any discussion taken to see whether, who has applied this year, how many are coming, do you remember?
Yes, it must have been done. They must know how many are coming, of course.
Do you know if any decisions were made, there’s too many, or there’s too many from this country?
No, this was not from any country. There can be too many in all, but not too many from one country.
Then arrangements had to be made with the Danish authorities.
Yes, of course, yes.
That would all be done here at the Institute?
Would you do that?
No. They went up to the stats politi and had their papers put in order.
So they would just take the list of names up there.
Yes, or the police would call here — do you know this man? He says he is to work at the Institute. They did that sometimes.
I see. When you got a large group of guests then — now we’re talking about the 1930s where you’d have, I don’t know, is it possible to say the average number each year in the 1930s?
One can find out from the guestbook. Yes, it changes very much.
Were there any special groups that would develop and would work on a special subject?
Sometimes I think some of the guests, not a great group but a small group, worked together on the same thing.
And this would be a mixture of staff, regular people and guests.
Yes, of guests, yes.
What I’m really interested in, is when you get to a certain size where you have a few groups working, is there any — how did Professor Bohr keep in touch with them? Was there any meeting at that time?
I think they came to him and spoke with him sometimes.
But there were still no official reports, anything of this type.
I wanted to ask a few things about the radium gift in 1935. 1 found the newspaper story with an interview, telling of a Paul Vinding I think.
Vinding? About the radium?
Oh no, that was the same time, that was 1935, that was just on the 50th, on his trip of his birthday… I’ll check what it says. Here’s another man, Ambrosen. He was on the staff?
He was one of the staff, and then he went to a better position at the Radium Station here.
This was Paul Vinding of India.
I do not know anything about him, except he was the Chief of the Fire… He was the fire inspector, yes, I think. But otherwise I do not know anything about him.
There was a nice conversation, an interview that was reported in the paper about the radium gift — I’m going to copy that later which tells about it — but do you recall, was this a surprise to him or did he know it was being organized? Or was it, how was it done?
It was done yes… by I do not know. It was the lawyer Jorgensen [Albert V.] maybe he had something to do with it.
He was the one connected with it?
Albert V., yes. I think he also had something to do with the radium gift. It may have come from him, Thrige and other big firms.
How did they know that this would be a good thing?
I do not know. I think it was 1955, it was later.
Oh yes. But it was also the Carlsberg Brewery and the Carlsberg Foundation, they knew anything about the work here, and so —
— they were one of the contributors.
Yes. And Dansk Goerings Industry has also at least I think for three years given money to people studying here. Yes, Thomas B. Thrige’s Fund was also here.
But then they had some other small companies and so forth.
It was the only thing — from 1935.
Was the public involved? It wasn’t a question of little school children giving money, it was just big companies?
No. But you see, then that radium was here in this building, in the deep basement under the building, in a room there where a spectrograph was placed. And when Nazis came here they would like to know what it was, and I had to open up. They went down there. “I told them it’s some chemicals that cannot bear to be out in the air. It must be kept here.” “I see, all right.” He did not know much about physics, that man.
That’s very fortunate. And it stayed there all during the war, no one bothered it?
Oh yes. They had nothing to do, except only when they came. Then they went around and looked at everything. No, not when they came to occupy the institute. They were soldiers but that man who went down there, he was not a soldier but a physicist — but he did not know so much about physics, I think. Otherwise he would not have believed me. The cyclotron was here.
The cyclotron was here. Where they interested in that?
No. Two or three young men that came and I had the impression that they did not know very much. They went around and looked at everything, but they did not find anything, of course.
When they came, was it a surprise, or did they say they were coming?
I think they came suddenly, yes.
Do you remember when they came? That day, were there a lot people working around, or very few?
No. When, at or when the institute was taken, you mean?
Well, the first was in the early early morning, when no people were here, except us who lived here, Boggilds and Olsen, Jensen and me. We were the only people. No, nobody else. But otherwise no, no one, no people here, because they did not work — they took the Institute, you see and people couldn’t work here. We had two rooms, a little office for me and a workshop at the Polyteknisk Laereanstalt in Solugade where we came in, and met and spoke about the things. We couldn’t work here. In my office downstairs, it was the “Vagtlokale” (office of the guards). We didn’t work during this month, not here.
It was just one month? How long?
It was I think from the 7th December to the 2nd of February.
So the Institute essentially was closed, except for the German soldiers.
It was closed. Yes.
And then, what happened? How did you know that you could come back?
That we could come back?
Yes, that it was all right.
We did not know about it.
But I mean after the 2nd of February.
Oh yes. It was in the newspapers on the 2nd of February that the Institute was set free and a few of the highest officers came here and met Professor Jacobsen and Professor Moller and wrote something down; that I can show you something about on a picture.
Yes, I would like to —
(This is the end of the first session of the interview. At this point, we looked into a photo album of pictures which were taken during the German occupation, and at that moment Mrs. Margarethe Bohr came in, and a discussion off tape ensued with her. The interview will be resumed on the morning of the 26th of March 1971. This first session took place on March 25th.)