Heisenberg's Bathtub – Copenhagen, Denmark - Atlas Obscura

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Heisenberg's Bathtub

Copenhagen University

Did he come up with a theory of cosmic-ray showers while sitting in this bath? 

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On the top floor of the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University, tucked away in a room that now serves as a kitchenette, is a famous bathtub. The simple porcelain tub has become a well-known object in certain circles because it was used by at least one famous physicist: Werner Heisenberg.

Heisenberg was a German physicist who helped pioneer the field of quantum mechanics, a feat for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932. He first came to Copenhagen in 1924 to study under Niels Bohr, who was the director of the university’s Institute of Theoretical Physics.

Though it has likely been years since anyone bathed in this tub, it has been kept around for about a century. Most physicists that work there will not really have an answer for it. Most will say that the institute did not get around to removing it yet, or that it’s kept for potential future use. 

Amongst students the story is slightly different, most of them know of its existence and connection to Heisenberg and other famous physicists who may have bathed in it at some point. Much like Albert Einstein’s Sink at Leiden University, this item can be called an “academic relic,” or a mundane item that gained value from its connection to a prominent scientist. 

Similar relics connected to saints or Christ himself are very common in religious circles, but many scientists would not be too happy with the comparison. Despite that, they might be reluctant to throw the item away due to sentimentality and perhaps because it offers a connection to great minds of the past. Everyone’s reason may be different but still, these items somehow persevere. Who knows what is being kept in your local university?

Know Before You Go

The bathtub is inside of an active academic institute and can only be seen upon prior appointment.


Contact the institute for possibilities. 

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July 18, 2022

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