Fascinating Bohr

The physicist (and Einstein's esteemed colleague and sometime intellectual opponent) Niels Bohr gave biologists a new conceptual tool

Neil Greenspan
Sep 27, 2007
This past August 15 marked the 75th anniversary of the lecture "Light and Life," by the physicist and (some would say) philosopher, Niels Bohr. Bohr was roughly as well known, and probably more influential among physicists, than his contemporary and intellectual sparring partner, Albert Einstein. However, in comparison to Einstein and Einstein's ideas, Bohr and Bohr's ideas receive relatively modest levels of attention. I think that's unfortunate. "Light and Life" is perhaps best known for its focus on Bohr's concept of complementarity. According to this concept, some natural phenomena can only be completely understood by combining two or more experimental approaches that cannot be simultaneously implemented. More generally, complementarity asserts that apparently incompatible ideas or perspectives can both be necessary to achieve a fuller understanding of an entity or process.Bohr's original inspiration for the concept of complementarity was that ultimate source of illumination, light. He was impressed by the...
isisorErnst Mayrmail@the-scientist.comNeil Greenspan is an immunologist and clinical pathologist at Case Western Reserve University. He has written about the role of semantics in science, the shortcomings of intelligent design, and the challenging path from genetic knowledge to the development of medical therapies.Greenspan thanks Gino Segrè for critical comments on this manuscript.The Scientisthttp://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/7121/The Scientisthttp://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/22589/http://path-www.path.cwru.edu/The Scientisthttp://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/13194/The Scientisthttp://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/12895/The Scientisthttp://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/12614/http://www.physics.upenn.edu/facultyinfo/segre.html