Born: 5 Dec 1901 in Würzburg, Germany
Died: 1 Feb 1976 in Munich, Germany
Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1932

What to look out for:

Heisenberg talks about the history of quantum mechanics, about philosophy and about LANGUAGE
And note that : Niels Bohr, the great Danish physicist, and for years Heisenberg’s close colleague, is mentioned throughout this interview.

What Heisenberg does not mention is that in 1941 he and Bohr took a walk near Bohr’s home in Copenhagen.

No-one knows exactly what was said then, but it did have to do with plans for a German nuclear bomb, about which Heisenberg knew - indeed he was leading the project to build it. In other words Heisenberg was working for Hitler and the Nazis. His great friend Bohr was half-Jewish.

Their walk marked the end of the friendship between Heisenberg and Bohr. Not long afterwards Bohr flew to America and fervently warned the Allied scientists to build a bomb before Hitler could do so.

Unbeknownst to Bohr and the other scientists, the plans the Fuhrer had received showed a bomb that was too big and too heavy. It would also take too long to build. So Hitler cancelled the Nazi bomb.

After the war, Heisenberg claimed he had deliberately made mistakes in the calculations that Hitler was sent.

Not everyone believed him

The Interview reprinted below – a real find - was conducted in the early 1970’s at the Max Planck Institute in Munich

David Peat has kindly allowed Starlab’s Jack Klaff (Public Understanding of Science) to publish it here

In the Interview Heisenberg talks about the development of his ideas and theories. But his relationship with Bohr needs to be put into perspective, in the light of the terrible break-up of their friendship.

In 1925 Heisenberg took a trip to an island in the North Sea; he had terrible hay fever and the isle of Helgoland has no trees. While he was there he had a sudden revelation about the deep heart of nature.

He went as soon as he could to niels Bohr in Copenhagen, and for the next few weeks they argued long into the night, probing the implications of Heisenberg’s insights

The results of these discussions became known as the 'Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory'

Aspects of the interpretation include principle include Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

And Bohr's principle of complementarity.

The Interview with Werner Heisenberg was conducted by David Peat (DP) and Paul Buckley (PB)

It was aired as part of the Canadian radio series Physics and Beyond and later published in Glimpsing Reality: Ideas in Physics and the Link to Biology, a collection of leading 20th Century Scientists. Available:

This interview took place thirty years after the walk that ended Heisenberg’s friendship with Bohr.