Director: Don Toner
Stage Manager: Kenedi Delgado
Set Designer: Mike Toner
Lighting Designer: Don Day
Costume Designer: Diana Huckaby
Sound Designer: Ryan Castaneda
April 5 -28, 2019
Copenhagen, a Tony Award winner for Best Play, explores an explosive confrontation between science and politics. Inspired by actual events that have intrigued and baffled historians for more than 50 years, Copenhagen revolves around a 1941 meeting between two brilliant physicists, Niels Bohr of Denmark and Germany’s Werner Heisenberg. The two men were long-time friends whose work together opened the way to the atomic bomb, but who were now on opposite sides of World War II. This pivotal meeting was a defining moment of the nuclear age, yet its true nature remains a mystery. Why did Heisenberg go to Copenhagen? What was he hoping to accomplish?
The search for an unknowable truth forms the core of Copenhagen. In our current political landscape, where “alternative facts” are often presented as evidence, Copenhagen is a refreshing reminder of the value of seeking the truth.
Ev Lunning Jr.
Margrethe Norlund Bohr
March 7th, 1890- December 21, 1984
Margrethe Norlund Bohr was born on March 7th, 1890 and grew up in the small town of Slagelse just 50 miles outside of Denmark. In 1909 she met Niels Bohr who would eventually become her husband in 1912. At the time she was attending Froken Banners Pigeskole where she was preparing to become a French teacher. They both had six children together. Margrethe was known for having a sharp mind, fast wit and immense emotional intelligence. It is no surprise that she became an integral part of Niels Bohr’s work with quantum physics. Together their work would have a monumental impact on what we know about physics today.
During his career Niels Bohr became deeply reliant on Margrethe's opinion and understanding of his work. Bohr often leaned on her as a soundboard for his ideas. She brought clarity to his ideas, ensuring that his papers made physics language more accessible for non-physics readers. Margrethe became the “final reader and editor” of Bohr’s work and it is even said that without Margrethe’s approval his papers could not be completed. She continued to add major contributions to Bohr’s career by taking on roles as editor, typist, and transcriber. While accompanying him on his travels, she was always nearby editing his drafts and organizing notes. In fact, she established a fundamental structure for Bohr’s articles by organizing his notes into booklets with title pages for later reference. Her aid in this process helped create a legacy in his scientific content that continues to be recognized today.
Margrethe’s contribution impacted more than just Niels Bohr work in quantum physics. She elegantly bridged the gap between the personal and professional realms in their lives. In 1932 both Margrethe and Niels moved into the “Residence of Honor” at the Carlsberg Brewery, a residence designed specifically for men and women who have made major contributions in science, literature, or art. One could say Margrethe was at her very best while here. She was a woman who carried herself with dignity and knew how to make others feel seen. She was known for remembering all the names of her guest and a particular detail about them whether they were staff members, visitors, or guest of high esteem. Margrethe had a charming presence and could hold invigorating conversations with almost anyone. It is no surprise that she was most commonly known as “Dronning (Queen) Margrethe”.
October 7, 1885- November 18, 1962
Niels Bohr was born in Copenhagen on October 7th, 1885. His mother, Ellen Adler came from a Jewish family that found success in banking, philosophy, education and politics. His father, Christian Bohr was a highly regarded physiology scholar. Being raised in a household of scholars, it is no surprise that Niels would go on to become one of the most revolutionary physicists we know today. Bohr attended the University of Copenhagen and graduated with both his Masters and Doctorate in Physics in 1911 focusing on the classical theory of metals. After graduating he found himself working in the Manchester Laboratory with Ernest Rutherford. Through his work here Bohr saw many implications from Rutherford’s nuclear model that would later inform the creation of the Bohr nuclear model.
Shortly after, in 1912, Niels Bohr would marry his wife Margrethe Norlund and they’d have six children. Margrethe became an integral part of his work often editing and transcribing his dense scientific language into “plain language” for everyone to understand. At this time, Bohr’s research and writing established a foundation for future atomic research, including the creation of the Correspondence Principle. This principle explained why light could be seen both as a particle and a wave but never at the same time. The result of this atomic theory would spark the invention of quantum mechanics and how successfully it would be applied to a wide range of problems in physics, chemistry and biology. From this work, Bohr earned a Nobel Peace Prize in 1922. Around this time, Bohr became a professor of Physics at Copenhagen University where he became the founder and head of the Institute for Theoretical Physics. This is where he would meet Werner Heisenberg and together they would conceive the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.
After Denmark was occupied by Germany in World war II, Bohr was fortunately able to flee to Sweden with his family. He eventually found himself in the United States and then in Los Alamos with his son Aage working on the creation of an atomic bomb for the Allies. Bohr proved to be much more than a physicist often incorporating ethical and philosophical perspectives in his work. He knew that working on this project could potentially be dangerous if used in the wrong way, so after the war he returned to Europe and wrote an Open Letter to the United Nations that called for peaceful uses of atomic energy. Bohr published over 100 papers creating much of the foundation for Quantum Mechanics, establishing his title as the “Pope” of modern physics.
December 5, 1901- February 1, 1976
Werner Heisenberg was born on December 5th, 1901 in Munich, Germany. He was the son of two university professors that instilled a deep sense of academic culture in him. He also had a talent for music and was known to be an excellent piano player. Heisenberg married Elisabeth Schumacher and had seven children together in Munich. Upon entering the University of Munich he had intentions of becoming a mathematician but was swayed by his distinguished physics professor, Arnold Sommerfeld. In 1923 he graduated from the University of Munich with his doctorate in Physics. He’d go on to work with other renowned physicists including Niels Bohr at which time Heisenberg worked under him as a lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.
At the age of 25 he would be appointed as Germany’s youngest full professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Leipzig. His teachings would span beyond Europe as he traveled to the United States, Japan and India to lecture. Heisenberg would make a major impact in the world of physics, making contributions to the theory of hydrodynamics of turbulent flows, the atomic nucleus, ferromagnetism, cosmic rays and subatomic particles. His most notable contribution to physics is his discovery of the Uncertainty Principle which he published in 1927. In short, this principle states that the position and velocity of an object cannot be measured, exactly, at the same time. Through further research and insight from his longtime friend and mentor Niels Bohr, this principle would create a foundation for Heisenberg's scientific philosophy as well as contribute to his and Bohr’s Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. In 1932, Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for the creation of quantum mechanics, the application of which has, inter alia, led to the discovery of the allotropic forms of hydrogen."
During World War II, Heisenberg found himself under attack as a “white Jew” despite his patriotic views as a German, solely because he was a theoretical physicist. Eventually, he was able to restore peace with the Nazi regime and was put in charge of their German nuclear reactor program. This was also around the same time that he and Bohr had their mysterious meeting in Copenhagen. Towards the end of the war Heisenberg was captured by the British, along with six other German scientists, and relocated to Farm Hall in Cambridge, England for six months. After their release Heisenberg set out to restore post-war science in Germany. During this time he re-established the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, renamed the Max Institute, where he had previously been director, and eventually lead the German delegation at the European Research Center for nuclear (high energy) physics in Geneva. Despite his controversial political association Heisenberg remained dedicated to and active in theoretical physics until his death in 1976.