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Niels Bohr Quotes

Quotes by physicist and Nobel laureate Niels Bohr


No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical.

The best weapon of a dictatorship is ...

The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness.

Every sentence I utter ...

Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question.

The opposite of a fact is a falsehood ...

Once again, we have two closely related quotes:
  • The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.
  • There are trivial truths and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.

Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution....

Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it.

Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.

When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry....

We must be clear that, when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.

According to Werner Heisenberg, in his 1971 Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations (p.41), Bohr said this upon their first meeting. This was quoted in the 1993 Steve Giles book Theorizing modernism: essays in critical theory (p. 28). Wikiquote, however, attributes this to something called Discussions about Language (1933), which I have been unable to locate.

Truth and clarity are complementary.

This may well be a misquotation. In the 2000 book Quantum Theory and the Flight from Realism: Philosophical Responses to Quantum Mechanics, Christopher Norris quotes physicist John S. Bell (on page 234) who credits this quote to Bohr. On page 259, in the Endnotes, this quote is attributed to Bell's 1987 book Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics: collected papers on quantum philosophy, p. 190. This, in turn, is part of a 1986 essay called "Six possible worlds of quantum mechanics."

From what I can gather, therefore, this quote wasn't attributed to Niels Bohr prior to 1986 ... 24 years after Bohr's death. I consider this one a dubious source, but leave it here for your consideration.

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