BETHE, HANS ALBRECHT


BETHE, HANS ALBRECHT (1906–2005), nuclear physicist and Nobel Prize laureate in physics (1967). Bethe was born in Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine. He studied physics at Frankfurt-am-Main University and received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at Munich University in 1928. He held successive appointments at the universities of Munich, Stuttgart, and Tubingen. He emigrated to England in 1933 because his mother was Jewish, but he never acknowledged any personal Jewish affiliation. After a temporary appointment at Manchester University and a fellowship at Bristol University, he became assistant professor at Cornell, Ithaca, in the U.S., in 1935. He was full professor in 1937–75 and then professor emeritus. In 1943–46 he worked in Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project as director of the theoretical physics division. His work in theoretical physics led to the Nobel Prize for his studies on atomic structure in general and more specifically for elucidating the sequence of energy-creating nuclear reactions in stars which culminate in helium production. His many awards include the Presidential Medal in 1948 and the Max Planck Medal in 1955. He was a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee in 1956–64 and in 1958 was scientific adviser to the U.S. at the Geneva test ban talks. In the 1980s and 1990s he campaigned for international control and peaceful use of nuclear energy. The books he wrote between 1955 and 1964 remain important sources of information on nuclear particle interactions and quantum theory.

[Michael Denman (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.