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Niels Bohr for the 21st Century

Project description

Bridging science and philosophy to decode Niels Bohr’s legacy

Niels Bohr's profound impact on physics extends beyond equations. Nevertheless, misinterpretations linger due to selective scrutiny of his writings. In this context, the ERC-funded BOHR21 project aims to unravel Bohr’s philosophical legacy, fostering a comprehensive grasp of his ideas. This initiative transcends disciplines, delving into physics, biology, and broader scientific debates. Leveraging the newly digitised Niels Bohr Archive, the project seeks to rectify historical misjudgements and bridge gaps between physics and philosophy. Methodologically innovative, the project combines philosophy and history to provide a nuanced understanding of Bohr’s thought, propelling 21st-century discussions at the intersection of science and philosophy.


Niels Bohr has been hugely influential both in physics and outside physics, but he is also hugely misunderstood, partly because a few of his writings have been overstudied at the expense of many others. This ERC project is devoted to his philosophical legacy, and will establish an unprejudiced understanding of Bohr, building on a current revival of interest in Bohr’s ideas in the philosophy of physics, and extending it among other things to his wider influence in other scientific disciplines, specifically in biology, and on general debates such as on science and objectivity. The project will systematically exploit the resources of the Niels Bohr Archive in Copenhagen, which has only recently started digitising its collections.

This ERC project has the ambition to rectify historical misjudgements and to build bridges between physics and philosophy, between different schools in philosophy of physics, between philosophy of physics and philosophy of biology, and even between analytic philosophy and continental philosophy. The relevant resources are only now becoming more widely available. It is a large and methodologically novel project, combining philosophy and history, involving the systematic study of extensive sources, and including applications to philosophy of physics, philosophy of biology and general philosophy of science. Historically informed analysis has long proved to be an important tool in the philosophy of science, and the project will lead the way in applying a historically accurate understanding of Bohr’s thought to 21st-century debates.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 500 000,00
3584 CS Utrecht

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West-Nederland Utrecht Utrecht
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 2 500 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)