Niels Bohr & Louis Armstrong

Copenhagen, 1959. Niels Bohr Archive, # G064

I could file this photo under the rubric of the cross-pollination of scientific imagery and black cultural expression. This theme was perhaps first inspired by the landmark first folk/blues singer Josh White's “Free and Equal Blues.”

I have not yet discovered a backstory to this photo. Bohr and Armstrong were both geniuses and revolutionaries in their respective fields: Bohr as originator of quantum theory, Armstrong as innovator of the jazz solo; both changing our perceptions of continuity and discontinuity.

Aside from the obviously posed nature of the photograph, it's not clear what conclusion might be drawn from this. Armstrong was much admired in Europe. In the 1920s he, along with Josephine Baker and other Black Americans, were an exotic presence in European culture. One would have to know more about the circumstances that brought these two figures together to pose for this photo to be able to infer the ideological subtext of the photo.

Perhaps, though, there is an affinity not only between physics and jazz, or music in general, but a complementarity between these two approaches to the world.

Albert Einstein and Black Americans

Black Studies, Music, America vs Europe Study Guide

Josh White's "Free & Equal Blues"

Niels Bohr Archive

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Uploaded 30 September 2009

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