Bohm published his interpretation of quantum mechanics in 1952. Comments on Bohm's work from Einstein, Heisenberg und Pauli are cited in the corresponding wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Broglie%E2%80%93Bohm_theory).

Is it known what Bohr himself thought? Did he comment on it?

  • $\begingroup$ It is an oft quoted story that shortly after Bohm published his theory Oppenheimer called a meeting at Princeton where the attitude is summed up according to a quote attributed to Oppenheimer - "if we cannot disprove Bohm we can all agree to ignore him." See, for example, Physics Forum. If this is accurate, then the absence of public comments may not be a surprise. $\endgroup$
    – nwr
    Commented Mar 31, 2019 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


Bohr did not comment in print. However, in his Bohm's biography Infinite Potential, Peat describes Bohr's 1953 reaction, as reported by Feyerabend, who visited him in Copenhagen:

"The first Feyerabend heard of Bohm’s new theory was during a seminar given by Niels Bohr. Following the lecture he asked Bohr to clarify certain points. The Danish physicist’s reaction was, “Have you read Bohm”? As Feyerabend put it, "It seemed that, for him, the sky was falling in... Bohr was neither dismissive, nor shaken. He was amazed".

In the midst of explaining to Feyerabend why Bohm’s paper so disturbed him, Bohr was called away. The discussion continued without him for two more hours. Some of those present argued that the objections to Bohm’s theory were not at all conclusive. As Feyerabend put it, the orthodox Copenhagen supporters tried to reply “in the Bohrian fashion”. When this attempt was not successful, they said, “But von Neumann has proved...” which ended the discussion. Feyerabend noted, however, that Bohr himself did not use von Neumann’s supposed proof as a crutch in that fashion."

The von Neumann's supposed impossibility of hidden variables proof was comprehensively analyzed in 1965 by Bell in On the Problem of Hidden Variables in Quantum Mechanics (1965). He concluded that von Neumann's "essential axioms are unreasonable" (von Neumann assumed, among other things, that quantum probabilities reflect the distribution of values of physical quantities before the measurement). According to Peat, Bohm realized this much earlier.

It should be noted, however, that the overall reaction to Bohm's papers in 1950-s was that of dismissal, although many realized that Bohm's theory was not mathematically flawed. This was compounded by the fact that Bohm was a leftie suspected of communist ties, in the spirit of the times, a traitor. In 1950 he was arrested and suspended from Princeton, and after the acquittal his US passport was confiscated upon arrival to Brazil in 1951.

Aside from Oppenheimer's "ignore him" directive, followed by the Princeton group, and the references to von Neumann's theorem, we have Pauli's "your ‘extra wave-mechanical predictions’ are still a check, which cannot be cashed", and similar opinions. Feynman, and few others, were an exception. Like Pauli, Rosenfeld, professing to speak on Bohr's behalf, addressed Bohm directly in a condescending letter:

"I shall certainly not enter into any controversy with you or anybody else on the subject of complementarity, for the simple reason that there is not the slightest controversial point about it. It is just because we have undergone this process of purification through error that we feel so sure of our results... there is no truth in your suspicion that we may just be talking ourselves into complementarity by a kind of magical incantation. I am inclined to return that it is just among your Parisian admirers that I notice some disquieting signs of primitive mentality."

Towler in Lecture 7 on De Broglie-Bohm Pilot-Wave Theory gives a survey of contemporary responses, from which the quotes are taken.


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