2 The Early Years Hans Bethe was born in Strasbourg, Alsace on July 2, 1906. He attended the University of Munich, as a student of Arnold Sommerfeld who had created one of the greatest schools of theoretical physics in the world. In 1928, Bethe earned his doctorate — summa cum laude — with a pioneering study of electron diffraction in crystalline solids.
3 After receiving his degree, he became Paul Ewald’s assistant at the Technical University of Stuttgart (Ewald was later to become his father-in-law), and then returned to Munich as a Privatdozent. In 1930 and 1931, he received fellowships to spend time in Cambridge and in Rome, where he worked with Enrico Fermi.
4 From Fermi, Bethe learned to reason qualitatively, to think of physics as easy and fun, as challenging problems to be solved. Bethe’s craftsmanship combined the best of what he learned from these two great physicists and teachers: the thoroughness and rigor of Sommerfeld and the clarity and simplicity of Fermi.
5 Hans Bethe, age 12, with his parents, Albrecht and Anna Kuhn Bethe
6 Hans Bethe as a young boy in Strasbourg, 1914
Strasbourg was a German city in 1914 when this photograph was taken. It reverted to France in 1945.
7 According to Hans Bethe, "My father was a physiologist. At the time of my birth, he was a Privatdozent at the University of Strasbourg. He had come from Stettin, an old city on the Oder River, in what was then the northern Prussian province of Pomerania and is now part of Poland...My father’s family was Protestant,...some members were Protestant ministers, and some were schoolteachers. My grandfather was a medical doctor— the closest anyone in that family had come to being a scientist." “My mother’s family was Jewish. Her father was a professor at the University of Strasbourg; his specialty was ear, nose, and throat diseases. For a Jew to get such a professorship was at that time—around 1880—quite exceptional. His family had been grape growers and wine merchants in the Palatinate. My grandmother came from a family of cloth merchants.”
8 Hans Bethe with his parents, Albrecht and Anna Kuhn Bethe, 1930(?)
9 Coming to Cornell
10 Coming to Cornell From 1928 till 1933 Bethe worked primarily on problems in atomic and solid state physics. By 1933, he was recognized as one of the outstanding theorists of his generation, but after Hitler’s accession to power, he had to leave Germany. A former student recommended him to R. Clifton Gibbs at Cornell. Gibbs wanted the Physics Department to become engaged in nuclear research, and offered a position to Bethe. In February 1935, Hans Bethe came to Cornell as an acting assistant professor.
11 During his ﬁrst year in the United States, Bethe traveled extensively, giving lectures in nuclear theory. He published a series of articles in The Reviews of Modern Physics, which quickly became known as “The Bethe Bible.” In 1937, at the age of 31, Bethe was promoted to a full professorship at Cornell. In 1938, Bethe attended the Washington Conference on energy production in stars. After the conference, Bethe developed his carbon-cycle theory, an intricate sequence of thermonuclear reactions for producing energy in stars. It was for this work that he would win the Nobel Prize in 1967.
12 Cornell University Physics Department, 1936 (Some faculty and graduate students; key on next slide.)
13 Front row: Horace Grover, Felix L. Yerzeley, Leroy L. Barnes, Donald Mueller, L. A. Wood. Second row: George W. Scott, Hans Bethe, Lloyd P. Smith, Aldous Fogelsanger, M. Stanley Livingston. Third row: Donald F. Weekes, Eugene C. Crittenden, Albert Rose, Emery Meschter. Back row: ?, Willy A. Higinbotham, Paul Hartman, Richard E. Downing
14 Physics Professorial Faculty in 1936 Bacher, Robert F. Barnes, Leroy L. Bedell, Frederick Bethe, Hans A. Collins, Jacob R. Gibbs, R. Clifton Grantham, Guy E. Howe, Harley E. Kennard, Earle H. Livingston, M. Stanley Murdock, Carleton C. Parratt, Lyman G. Richtmyer, Floyd K. Smith, Lloyd P. Trevor, Joseph E. Reference: The Cornell Physics Department: Recollections and a History of Sorts. Hartman, Paul L. 1993. online at http://dspace.library.cornell.edu/handle/1813/2093
15 Hans Bethe with Werner Heisenberg, 1938
16 17 18 19 20 Early WWII
21 On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, and on September 3, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. While anxious to contribute to the allied cause, Bethe was still a German citizen and could not participate in military research. With the assistance of his close friend at Cornell, structural engineer George Winter, he did important research on the penetration of armor by projectiles. In the summer of 1940, Bethe and Edward Teller collaborated on research on the theory of shock waves. Later that summer, Bethe had his ﬁrst extended meeting with J. Robert Oppenheimer at a meeting of the American Physical Society. After becoming a United States citizen in 1941, Bethe received clearance to work on military projects.
22 He was asked to participate in work on radar with the Theoretical Group at the Radiation Laboratory at M.I.T., and organized a small group that met monthly at Cornell, which included Julian Schwinger, who at the time was at Purdue, and Robert Marshak who was at Rochester, to assist him. Initially, Bethe was skeptical of the possibilities of designing and producing an atomic bomb during World War II. However, by 1942, it was clear that Enrico Fermi would succeed in producing a chain reaction in uranium. That summer, Bethe agreed to join a group directed by Oppenheimer and meeting at Berkeley to investigate theoretically how an atomic bomb might be made.
23 The following winter, it was decided to establish a separate laboratory for the design of the bomb, at a remote site at Los Alamos, New Mexico, under the direction of Oppenheimer. Bethe joined the Manhattan Project, as head of the Theoretical Physics Division, arriving in Los Alamos in April 1943. Rose Bethe, who was assigned to be the Manhattan Project’s housing ofﬁcer, had come ten days earlier. The Bethes’ two children, Henry and Monica, were born there. Other Cornell physicists at Los Alamos included Robert F. Bacher, Bruno Rossi, Lyman G. Parratt, and students Kenneth Greisen, Willy Higinbotham, Marshall Holloway, Charles Baker, and Boyce D. McDaniel.
24 25 26 Rose Ewald Bethe
27 Hans Bethe had ﬁrst become acquainted with Rose Ewald when he served as an assistant to her father, Paul P. Ewald, professor of theoretical physics at the Technical University of Stuttgart. They met again in 1936, after Rose had come to the United States, and were married in 1939. Rose, who had been a student at Smith College, ﬁnished her degree in 1941 at Cornell.
28 Rose Ewald Bethe
29 World War II & Return to Cornell
30 World War II & Return to Cornell In the summer of 1940, Bethe ﬁrst met with J. Robert Oppenheimer. After becoming a United States citizen in 1941, Bethe received clearance to work on military projects. Initially, Bethe was skeptical of the possibilities of designing and producing an atomic bomb during World War II. However, by 1942, it was clear that Enrico Fermi would succeed in producing a chain reaction in uranium. Bethe joined the Manhattan Project, as head of the Theoretical Physics Division, and arrived in Los Alamos in April 1943.
31 After World War II, Bethe played the key role in creating a world-class physics department at Cornell by recruiting some of the most brilliant young physicists at Los Alamos, in particular Richard Feynman, Philip Morrison, and Robert Wilson. Bethe’s negotiations with President Edmund Ezra Day resulted in the construction of Newman Laboratory. Under the leadership of Bethe and Wilson, the Laboratory of Nuclear Studies quickly developed into one of the world’s leading centers of research in experimental particle physics.
32 Hans A. Bethe
33 Postwar Politics After World War II, the control of nuclear armaments became one of Bethe’s chief commitments. He opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb on moral grounds, and, as early as 1946, began to lobby for international civilian control of all phases of nuclear energy. One of the ﬁrst scientists to publicly advocate arms control, he became one of the most inﬂuential participants in the discussions with Soviet scientists leading toward a nuclear test ban, serving as a member of the U.S. delegation to “Discussions and Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapons Tests” at Geneva, Switzerland in 1958 and 1959.
34 Bethe was a member of the President’s Scientiﬁc Advisory Committee (PSAC) during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, and of other high-level government advisory bodies. He publicly opposed the Johnson Administration’s decision, against the advice of PSAC, to deploy an Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) system. During the 1980s, he joined the public debate on defense and arms control issues and strongly opposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the “Star Wars” program.
35 1958 Geneva Conference
36 Hans Bethe receiving the Fermi Award from President John F. Kennedy at the White House
37 Hans Bethe receiving the Franklin Medal, 1959 38 Franklin Medal 39 Nobel Prize Medal The Nobel medals were designed in 1901 by the Swedish sculptor Erik Lindberg. The front carries the image of Alfred Nobel and his birth and death dates. Nobel laureates in physics and chemistry receive the medal of the Royal Academy of Sciences. On its reverse, Nature in the form of the goddess Isis, is lifting the clouds and carrying a horn of plenty in her arms. The Spirit of Science is raising the veil which covers her serene and grave countenance. The medals are created of 205 grams of twenty-three carat gold. Shown here is the presentation copy of Professor Bethe’s medal. Hans Bethe was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his 1938 paper on energy production in stars.
40 Hans Bethe and his secretaries, Gertrude Stout Hamil and Velma Ray
Hans Bethe and his secret news
41 42 43 Hans A. Bethe, John Wendell Anderson Professor of Physics
44 45 The Floyd Newman Laboratory of Nuclear Studies In 1946, the Trustees of Cornell University voted to establish a new department to be allied with the Department of Physics and dedicated to the study of nuclear phenomena. Construction of the Laboratory building was completed in 1948. The Laboratory was named for Floyd R. Newman (‘12) in recognition of his generous gift to Cornell. The original aims of the Laboratory were to investigate the particles of which atomic nuclei were composed and to discover more about the nature of the forces which hold those particles together. Robert Wilson came from Harvard in 1947 to direct the Laboratory during its construction. For the next twenty years, he would be responsible for the building of four successively larger high-energy electron accelerators, or synchrotrons; the Wilson Synchrotron Facility is named in his honor.
46 Hans Bethe, Franklin Long (Chemistry), President Edmund Day (with shovel), Robert Wilson, Lloyd P. Smith (Chair of Physics) The groundbreaking for the Floyd R. Newman '12 Laboratory of Nuclear Studies (now of Elementary-Particle Physics)
47 Hans Albrecht Bethe
48 Hans Bethe and Boyce McDaniel tour the Wilson Synchrotron Laboratory ca.1955
49 Cornell Physics Department, 2000 (key on next slide) 50 Front Row (l-r): Daniel Ralph, Ritchie Patterson, Tung-Mow Yan, Veit Elser, Hans Bethe, Tomas Arias, Vinay Ambegaokar, Nariman Mistry, Hasan Padamsee; Second Row: Carl Franck, Persis Drell, Henry Tye, Jay Orear, Neil Ashcroft, Albert Sievers, James Alexander, Toichiro Kinoshita, Yuri Orlov; Third Row: Ira Wasserman, Michelle Wang, Robert Cotts, David Cassel, Louis Hand, Andre LeClair, Donald Holcomb, David Mermin, James Sethna; Fourth Row: Robert Thorne, Lawrence Gibbons, Douglas Fitchen, Kurt Gottfried, Peter Stein, Robert Richardson, Boyce MacDaniel, Raphael Littauer, Bernard Gittelman; Fifth Row: Joseph Rogers, Peter Lepage, Robert Silsbee, David Rubin, Saul Teukolsky, Donald Hartill, Robert Lieberman, Albert Silverman, Edith Cassel, David Lee
51 52 Los Alamos National Laboratory Medal
Scientiﬁc Visionary and Leader, Mentor and Role Model to the Laboratory from its inception
53 54 Hans and Rose Bethe, 1995
55 Hans and Rose Bethe at home in Ithaca
56 Hans Bethe accepting a certiﬁcate of appreciation from Cornell President Frank H. T. Rhodes 57 Rudolph Peierls and Hans Bethe
Long-term collaborator and friend
58 59 Credits
Text written by Elaine D. Engst, University Archivist and Director, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library
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Permissions Coordinator Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections 2B Carl A. Kroch Library Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14853
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