Anecdote: Physicist Niels Bohr and the horseshoe of indeterminate luckiness

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 4 20:40:57 UTC 2013

A popular anecdote about Niels Bohr and a horseshoe is mentioned in
the Disputed section of the Wikiquote webpage for Bohr with citations
in 1974 and 1986. Below is a cite in 1956. Further below is an
interesting account by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Alfred Meier.

[ref] 1956 September 30, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Section: The American
Weekly, The Wit Parade by E. E. Kenyon, Quote Page 13, Column 1,
Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)

[Begin excerpt]
A friend was visiting in the home of Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr,
the famous atom scientist.

As they were talking, the friend kept glancing at a horseshoe hanging
over the door. Finally, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he

"Niels, it can't possibly be that you, a brilliant scientist, believe
that foolish horseshoe superstition! ? !"

"Of course not," replied the scientist. "But I understand it's lucky
whether you believe in it or not."
[End excerpt]

In 1959 Carl Alfred Meier gave a series of lectures at the Andover
Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. The lectures were
published in 1959. During a lecture (according to the published text)
Meier told a version of the horseshoe anecdote, in which he was a
participant together with an unnamed "world-famous scientist".

[ref] 1977, Jung's Analytical Psychology and Religion by Carl Alfred
Meier, Series: Arcturus paperbacks, Quote Page 34 and 35, Southern
Illinois University Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville, Illinois.
(Reprint of the 1959 ed. published by Dept. of Psychology, Andover
Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Mass., under title: Jung and
Analytical Psychology, in series: Cutting lectures)(Verified with

[Begin excerpt]
I should like to report here an experience I had during my last trip
to this country, when I visited a world-famous scientist whom I had
known from Europe. He received me on the porch of his house which was
adorned with a horse shoe. I tried to make a funny remark by saying,
"but Professor, you don't believe in that sort of thing, do you
really?"; whereupon he answered quite naively, "of course not, but you
know I have been told that it works even when you don't believe in
[End excerpt]


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