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Gerald E. Brown and Chang-Hwan Lee, Hans Bethe and His Physics

This book does an admirable task in drawing a portrait of a great scientist and a great man When Hans Bethe, at the age of 97, asked his long-term collaborator, Gerry Brown, to explain his scientific work to the world, the latter knew that this was a steep task. As the late John Bahcall famously remarked: "If you know his Bethe's work, you might be inclined to think he is really several people, all of whom are engaged in a conspiracy to sign their work with the same name".

Almost eight decades of original research, hundreds of scientific papers, numerous books, countless reports spanning the key areas of 20th century physics are the impressive record of Hans Bethe's academic work. In answering Bethe's request, the editors enlisted the help of experts in the different research fields, collaborators and friends of this "last giant" of 20th century physics.

Hans Bethe and His Physics is the result.

It contains discussions of Hans Bethe's work in solid state physics, nuclear physics and astrophysics; it explains his contributions as a science advisor and his stance on energy and nuclear weapons; and it demonstrates his impact as a teacher and mentor to generations of young scientists. Prize Winners.

Hans Bethe - Beginning physics at Frankfurt University (1/158)

Nobel Prize. Physics Prize. Biography Contributors. Bethe, Hans Albrecht Portions of this entry contributed by Leonardo Motta Portions of this entry contributed by Michel Barran German-American physicist who was born in Strasbourg, in the French province of Alsace-Lorraine at the time, occupied by Germany , on July 2, His father was the physiologist Albrecht Bethe. He was educated at the Goethe Gymnasium ,the University of Frankfurt am Main , where he studied for two years, then finished his studies at Munich He obtained his Ph.

He was then appointed instructor of physics at Frankfurt for one semester, at Stuttgart for another semester, finally becoming Privatdozent at the University of Munich in , a position that he held for only three years.


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After the rise of the Nazis in Germany, Bethe emigrated to England in October , holding a temporary position as lecturer at the University of Manchester and at University of Bristol He was subsequently promoted to professor in , a position he has held even since as professor emeritus since Bethe subsequently became a U. At the end of the War, Bethe worked, along with Edward Teller , on the development of the hydrogen bomb. At the same time, he became an active proponent of the peaceful exploitation of nuclear energy. In , Bethe and Peierls developed a theory of the nucleus of the deuteron, which he further extended in Also in , Bethe and Heitler developed the quantum mechanical theory for bremsstrahlung of relativistic electrons, and initiated the theory of electron and proton showers in cosmic rays.

He resolved some contradictions in the nuclear mass scale During , he studied nuclear reactions and predicted many reaction cross sections, research that was useful to him to develop Bohr's theory of the compound nucleus more quantitatively. Bethe later campaigned together with Albert Einstein in the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists against nuclear testing and the nuclear arms race.

Bethe received the Max Planck medal in In , he was awarded the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society for work in identifying the energy generating processes in stars.


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In , Bethe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his contributions to the theory of nuclear reactions, especially his discoveries concerning the energy production in stars. Bethe was also noted for his theories on atomic properties. In the late s, he provided the first way out of the infinities that plagued the explanation of the so-called Lamb shift.

This work was the impetus for the pioneering later work done by Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger and others which marked the beginning of modern quantum electrodynamics. In , Bethe testified on behalf of Oppenheimer, who was on trial for being labeled a security risk.

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During this event, Bethe and his wife also tried hard to convince Edward Teller against testifying. However, Teller did not agree, and his testimony played a major role in the revocation of Oppenheimer's security clearance. While Bethe and Teller had been on very good terms during the pre-war years, the conflict between them during the Manhattan Project, and especially during the Oppenheimer episode, permanently marred their relationship.

In the article, which was published in Scientific American , the two physicists described in detail how almost any countermeasure that the U. He was one of the prime scientific voices behind the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty that prohibited atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. During the '80s and '90s, Bethe campaigned for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. After the Chernobyl accident, Bethe put together a committee of experts that analyzed the incident, and concluded that a similar episode would not happen in any good U.

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Throughout his life, Bethe remained a strong advocate for electricity from nuclear energy. In the s, he, along with other physicists opposed the Strategic Defense Initiative missile system that was being conceived by the Reagan administration, arguing against the enormous sums of money spent on it and the feelings of instability and animosity that it would foster. In , at the age of 88, Bethe wrote an open letter calling on all scientists to "cease and desist" from working on any aspect of nuclear weapons development and manufacture.

In , he signed a letter, along with 47 other Nobel laureates, endorsing John Kerry for president of the United States, citing Bush's misuse of science. He continued to do research on supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, and other problems in theoretical astrophysics into his late nineties.