Person: Bethe, Hans Albrecht
Hans Bethe was a mathematician and physicist who worked on quantum mechanics.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- In 1929 Hans was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship that allowed him to spend time in Cambridge working with Ralph Fowler and time in Rome working with Enrico Fermi.
- The paper by Bethe, Beck, and Riezler was later officially retracted.
- While in Rome that year, Hans found the atmosphere even more informal than Cambridge.
- Fermi taught Bethe the value of qualitative reasoning and that physics need not -- in fact should not -- be drudgery, but rather enjoyable.
- As it happened, Bragg was visiting Cornell at the very time that Hans was searching for a position and at the very time Lloyd P Smith, who had studied with Hans in Münich, recommended him for a vacant theorist position at Cornell.
- Bragg spoke very highly of Hans, passing along Sommerfeld's praise as well, and the job was his.
- Hans was to remain at Cornell for the rest of his life.
- Hans' work grew to be focused primarily on nuclear research.
- Hans had learned QED from Fermi in 1931 while he was visiting Rome, having come by way of Cambridge.
- But QED was a controversial theory until, in 1947, after attending the Shelter Island Conference, Hans was able to successfully show that QED (particularly as descended from Dirac's theory of the electron) could, in fact, make accurate predictions of electron transitions in real hydrogen atoms.
- Outside of Hans' theoretical contributions to physics, he was also a major contributor to the Manhattan Project during World War II.
- He was convinced to participate in a summer study organized by J Robert Oppenheimer in 1942 which led to the creation of Los Alamos Laboratory in 1943 with Hans as head of the theoretical division.
- But Teller's singular obsession with developing a thermonuclear device (the hydrogen or H-bomb) led to a cooling off in their relationship (in Hans' own words).
- Hans continued to make contributions to physics not only through direct publication but through his mentoring of younger Cornell faculty members throughout the remainder of his life.
- Freeman Dyson remembers he always preferred to be called 'Hans' and that he had an unusual sense of humor, not only evident in his hoax publication with Beck and Reizler, but also in his lending his name to a paper (a serious one at that) he had virtually nothing to do with, simply so the ever-jocular George Gamow could publish a paper with his student Ralph Alpher, whose author line would read: R Alpher, H Bethe, and G Gamow.
- Hans remained fairly active well into his later years, most recently participating in several organized forums regarding Michael Frayn's award-winning play Copenhagen.
- Bethe was honoured with the award of the Max Planck Medal in 1955 and the United States Atomic Energy Commission's Enrico Fermi Award in 1961.
Born 2 July 1906, Strasbourg, Germany (now France). Died 6 March 2005, Ithaca, New York, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Prize Nobel
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive