In 1941 the German physicist Werner Heisenberg traveled to Copenhagen to meet his Danish counterpart, Niels Bohr. Old friends and colleagues, now they found themselves on opposite sides in a world war, and embroiled in a race to create the atom bomb. Why Heisenberg went to Copenhagen, and what he wanted to say to Bohr, are questions that have intrigued and divided historians and scientists ever since. Michael Frayn’s play about their historic meeting has become a classic of modern drama—a meditation on friendship and moral responsibility, by turns intellectually dazzling and deeply moving, that journeys through the realm of science and beyond.
On an autumn evening in 1941, two old friends, physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, met for the first time since Nazi Germany invaded Denmark the previous year. Both men knew the secrets of nuclear fission, but would they use that information to build an atomic bomb? Would Heisenberg build a bomb for Hitler to protect Germany from another defeat? Would Bohr risk what he fears most—a nuclear war—to stop an even greater evil? All these questions confront the ghosts of Heisenberg, Bohr, and his wife, Margrethe, who have gathered to determine what they never managed to agree about in life: Why did Heisenberg come to Copenhagen that night? Relationships split like atoms and memories become as uncertain as Heisenberg’s famous principle as the three reconstruct the evening.