WTF Fun Fact 13160 – The Niels Bohr Beer Supply

After winning the Nobel Prize, Danish physicist Niels Bohr received a lifetime supply of kegs, bottles, and crates of beer from Carlsberg Brewery from 1932 until his death in 1962.

Niels Bohr Beer Supply (and the myth of the pipes)

You may have actually heard something about Niels Bohr’s beer prize. But that’s likely because you’ve heard an oft-repeated myth that the beer company had the beer piped right into his house.

For some reason, enough of us don’t know enough about pipes to realize that such a story would be both gross and impossible. But it’s ok – most of us aren’t plumbers.

So, first, let’s do away with the myth that Bohr had some magic beer sink or tap right inside his home. That would be cool, but it’s not true.

Instead, the physicist (who worked on the Manhattan Project) was gifted the beer in the form of bottles and kegs. We’re guessing he was also treated to a pint wherever he went. People were pretty excited about his Nobel Prize. And at the time they were both horrified and grateful for the Manhattan Project’s development of the atomic bomb.

Beer prize

Dr. Christian Joas, the director of the Niels Bohr Archives confirmed that “…it is true that Niels Bohr received a life annuity from Carlsberg Brewery in the form of kegs, bottles and crates of beer, which were delivered to him from 1932 until his death in 1962.”

The blog Beerena (cited below) has a great account of the myth and the real story.

They note that “the origin of the story of the beer pipeline at Bohr’s house” is likely due in part to chemistry professor and YouTuber Martyn Poliakoff (of the Periodic Videos channel).

“In 2011, he published a video in which he discusses the origin of the element bohrium, named after Niels Bohr, and mentions the urban legend of beer. When asked where he got it from, he replied that he believed he had read it in Richard Rhodes ’book Creating an Atomic Bomb.”

Trust us, there’s no such story in the book. But the book is long and full of detail, so we can see why he might assume the anecdote originated there. Sadly, that leaves us without the origin of the story. But it hardly matters – these types of things often spiral out of control. It’s interesting enough that Bohr had a beer connection to Carlsberg, we don’t really need to believe he had an underground beer pipe installed in his home.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The Myth of Niels Bohr’s Beer Pipeline” — Beerena

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