lørdag den 13. september 2008

Niels Bohr's "Paper Tiger": Léon Rosenfeld in physics, ideology, and history

Dear all:
I'm happy to be able to invite you to another seminar dedicated to the history of science.  Anja Skaar Jacobsen will present the results of her extensive research, lastly as a post-doc at the Niels Bohr Archive with support from the Carlsberg Foundation, for a biographical study of Bohr's close colleague Léon Rosenfeld.  I look forward to seeing you at this event.
All the best,
Finn Aaserud


Niels Bohr Archive: History of Science Seminar

Thursday 25 September 2008, 14.15
Aud. A, Niels Bohr Institute
Blegdamsvej 17, Copenhagen

Anja Skaar Jacobsen, Niels Bohr Archive:

Niels Bohr's "Paper Tiger":
Léon Rosenfeld in physics, ideology, and history

The Belgian physicist Léon Rosenfeld was a man at the centre of modern theoretical physics, Niels Bohr's right hand, politics' left hand, a perceptive polyglot cosmopolitan, whose path crossed those of many important people in several countries. He was also a strong integrated
personality capable of performing exotic calculations in quantum field theory at one moment, disentangling subtle philosophical questions or intervening in a political discussion the next — all at the highest level. I shall discuss what kind of man and physicist Rosenfeld was, in particular regarding his world view and political engagement and how they were related to his never failing fierce defence of Bohr's quantum philosophy. His route to the top of the physics community went through Paris, where he was supervised by Louis de Broglie, then through Göttingen, where he was Max Born's assistant and was taught by Pascual Jordan, and then through Zurich, where he matured as a physicist specialising in relativistic quantum mechanics under
Wolfgang Pauli's guidance around 1930. I shall also relate Rosenfeld's collaboration with Bohr; his discovery of Marxism, and his enthusiasm for the social experiment in Russia; his reaction to Trotsky's Copenhagen speech in 1932; his role in introducing the discovery of fission in the United States; how he survived the war in Utrecht as a sworn Marxist with a Jewish name; and finally his political engagement during the Cold War and his efforts to defend Bohr's quantum
philosophy in the same period. In the talk I shall give numerous examples of the rich and colourful correspondence in the Rosenfeld Papers at the Niels Bohr Archive.