Berkeley Papers in History of Science, Vol. 20
In 1941, two of the world's leading scientists met in Nazi-occupied Denmark. They were old friends, a mentor and his brilliant former protégé, and together they had changed the world of physics. But one was German and a leading figure in Hitler's nuclear fission program. The other was Danish, half-Jewish, and a statesman in the global physics community. The meeting between Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr broke off in embarrassment and strained their relationship for the rest of their lives. What was said - what exactly happened that night - has been fiercely debated ever since.
Michael Frayn's Tony Award-winning drama Copenhagen takes the controversial encounter to the stage. Was Heisenberg trying to forestall the development of nuclear weapons? Carrying out atomic espionage? Or just clumsily seeking personal rapprochement across a political chasm? Frayn's characters play through the different interpretations and find that their understandings, like quantum mechanics itself, are rooted in uncertainty. Michael Frayn illuminates the complexities of self-knowledge, memory, and the very possibility of recapturing the past.
The production of Copenhagen stirred up a vigorous exchange between the playwright and historians of science. In 2002, the publicity prompted Bohr's family to release previously unavailable documents pertaining to the infamous conversation. In light of the new information, historians were forced to examine the incident yet again.
Michael Frayn's Copenhagen in Debate collects essays specially written by leading historians in reaction to the play and the new documents. They debate Frayn's depiction, shed light on the mystery at its center, and reflect on the relation between history and drama.
What conclusions can be drawn from Copenhagen? That is for the reader to decide. By special arrangement with the Niels Bohr Archive in Copenhagen, Bohr's now-famous documents are reproduced in this volume.
ContentsMichael Frayn's Copenhagen in Debate contains twelve essays written by historians in response to the production of Copenhagen, each of them extended by the author after the release of the Bohr documents in 2002.
- Matthias Dörries
History of Science on Stage: An Introduction
- Finn Aaserud
The Need for a Dialogue
- Cathryn Carson
Reflections on Copenhagen
- David C. Cassidy
Copenhagen and History
- Michael Eckert
He Who Plays for Vulgar Ears Plays a Vulgar Tune...
- Klaus Hentschel
Finally, Some Historical Polyphony!
- Dieter Hoffman
Copenhagen Was Not an Isolated Case
- Gerald Holton
What is Copenhagen Trying to Tell Us?
- Thomas Powers
Why Heisenberg Did What He Did
- Helmut Rechenberg
Documentation and Recollections of the Bohr-Heisenberg Meeting in 1941
- Paul Lawrence Rose
Copenhagen Interpretation—Heisenberg Version
- Mark Walker
The History Behind Historical Fiction
Symposia on Copenhagen.
Creating Copenhagen: Exploring scientific, historical, and theatrical perspectives surrounding the events of the acclaimed play Copenhagen
The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
March 27, 2000
Copenhagen and beyond: Drama meets history of science
Niels Bohr Archive, Copenhagen
September 22-23, 2001
March 2, 2002
New thoughts on interpreting Copenhagen
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
March 13, 2002
German-language versions of Frayn's play and the essays in this volume are available from the Wallstein Verlag.