Chemistry & Physics

Bohr, Niels | On the Quantum Theory of Line-Spectra

  • First edition, first impression of Niels Bohr’s key work on atomic structure, the basis of modern quantum theory. An attractive set in uncommonly nice condition.

    At the time Bohr received his doctorate, in 1911, the two groundbreaking theories in physics were Planck’s discovery that energy is released from matter in discrete quanta and Rutherford’s new model of the atom, which revealed it to be comprised of a tiny nucleus, charged orbiting electrons, and a great deal of empty space. Rutherford’s model left unanswered the question of why electrons were stable and did not fall into the nucleus, as predicted by classical physics. Bohr’s great intellectual leap was to combine the two theories, proposing that electrons were held in stable orbits that could only be changed in discrete movements that corresponded with Planck’s quanta. An atom that absorbed exactly the right amount of energy “jumped” to a wider orbit, while one that lost the same amount (radiating it as quanta of heat and light) “fell” closer to the nucleus. This theory successfully explained the structure of atoms and how they are combined and separated in chemical reactions, and led directly to the development of modern quantum mechanics and nuclear physics. In 1922 Bohr was awarded the Nobel prize for this work. This three-volume set published in 1918 and 1922 (originally intended to be four volumes but left incomplete) is Bohr’s major work, representing his full vision of the theory.

    This set is from the archive of astronomer Arthur Beer (1900-1980). Beer was born in Richenberg, Bohemia (later Czechoslovakia), and educated in Austria and Germany. He worked as an astronomer at Breslau University, where he studied binary stars, and at the German Maritime Observatory. He also wrote newspaper columns and was responsible for developing one of the first scientific radio programmes, Aus Natur und Technik. Beer escaped from Germany in 1934, assisted by Einstein, who wrote him a public letter of recommendation, and spent the rest of his life in the UK. He worked at the Cambridge Solar Physics Observatory and at the Kew Observatory, and became a member of the Royal Astronomical Society. Beer’s most significant contribution to science was as the founding editor of Vistas in Astronomy, a “voluminous and thorough survey of present-day astronomy” in two volumes, conceived as a Festschrift celebrating the 70th birthday of astrophysicist Frederick J. M. Stratton, under whom he had served in Cambridge. The resulting volumes were so impressive that it was continued first as an annual book and then a quarterly journal.

  • ...Parts I, II, and III. Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences et des Lettres de Danemark, Copenhague. Section des Sciences, 8me série, t.IV, n° 1, fasc. 1, 2, & 3. 

    Copenhagen: Høst & Søn, 1918 & 1922. 3 volumes, tall quarto. Original white wrappers printed in black. Some light pencil marks to upper wrappers. Wrappers lightly toned and a little rubbed, minor creasing affecting the upper corner of volume III, contents fresh and clean. Excellent condition.