The Bruce Medalists


  portrait> Photo 1967, courtesy Cornell LEPP Laboratory
Hans Albrecht Bethe
2 July 1906 2001 Bruce Medalist 6 March 2005

Hans Bethe was born in Strassburg, Germany (now Strasbourg, France). He studied at the Universities of Frankfurt and Munich, where he earned his Ph.D. under Arnold Sommerfeld in 1928. He made important contributions to the theories of electrons in crystals, the negative hydrogen ion, and the passage of charged particles through matter and wrote major review articles on one-and-two electron atoms and electrons in metals before leaving Germany in 1933 for England. There he began working in nuclear physics, and he and Rudolph Peierls developed the theoretical model of the deuteron shortly after its discovery. Bethe was at Cornell University from 1935 to 2005. His three review articles in the late 1930s (two of them with coauthors) became known as “Bethe’s Bible” and formed the first real textbook of nuclear physics. In 1938 he developed the detailed model of the nuclear reactions which power the stars. He worked out the reaction rates for the CNO cycle, which he introduced, and which powers the more massive stars, and (with C.L. Critchfield) of the proton-proton chain, which had been suggested earlier by others, and which is more important in lower mass stars such as the sun. At the beginning of World War II Bethe, on his own, formed a theory of the penetration of armor by projectiles, and, with Edward Teller, produced a major paper on shock waves. From 1943 to 1946 Bethe headed the theoretical group at Los Alamos, where the first nuclear bomb was designed and built. After the war he worked on nuclear matter and meson theory and was the first to explain the Lamb shift in the hydrogen atom in an early and important contribution to quantum electrodynamics. He was an influential advisor to government agencies on both defense and energy policies, and he wrote widely about arms control and the need for new energy policies. After his official retirement he returned to astrophysics, and he continued to do research on solar neutrinos, supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, and other problems in theoretical astrophysics into his late nineties.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Mercury 30, 3, 5 (2001). See also the ASP website.

Other awards
American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Rumford prize, 1963.
American Philosophical Society, Benjamin Franklin Medal, 2005.
Franklin Institute, Ben Franklin medal, 1959.
German Physical Society, Max Planck Medal, 1955.
Government of Germany, Order Pour le Merite for Arts and Sciences, 1984.
Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory Medal, 2001.
National Academy of Sciences, Henry Draper Medal, 1947.
Nobel Foundation, Nobel prize, physics, 1967.
Royal Astronomical Society, Eddington medal, 1961, presented by R.O. Redman, QJRAS 2, 107-08 (1961).
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Enrico Fermi Award, 1961.

Some offices held
American Physical Society, President, 1954.

Biographical materials
The Atomic Heritage Foundation
Bacher, R.F. & V.F. Weisskopf, “The Career of Hans Bethe,” in Perspectives in Modern physics: Essays in Honor of Hans A. Bethe on the Occasion of his 60th Birthday, July 1966, ed. by R.E. Marshak (Wiley Interscience, NY, 1966), 1-8.
Baron, Eddie L., in Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers (Springer, NY, 2007), pp. 117-118.
Bernstein, Jeremy, Prophet of Energy: Hans Bethe (Basic Books,1980; Esevier-Dutton, NY, 1981) [based on a series of articles in the New Yorker, 1979].
Biography on receipt of the Nobel Prize
Bethe, Hans A., The Road from Los Alamos (American Institute of Physics, NY, 1991).
Bethe, Hans A., “My Life in Astrophysics,” Ann. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 41, 1 (2003).
Bonnet-Bidaud, J.M., “Hans Bethe: Des etoiles a la bombe,” Ciel et Espace 314, 32-38 (1996) [abstract].
Brown, Gerald E. & Sabine Lee, Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, 91, 30-57 (2009) (pdf).
Cornell University, About Hans Bethe
Cornell University Physics Dept., “I Can Do That!’ Hans Bethe’s First 60 Years at Cornell,” 1995.
Hall, Brian, “A Tribute to Hans Albrecht Bethe,” Cornell Magazine, Aug-Sept 1995.
Lee, Sabine & Gerry E. Brown, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 53, 1-20 (2007).
The Net Advance of Physics: In Memoriam: Hans Albrecht Bethe (1906-2005)
PBS Online, Race for the Superbomb, People & Events
Schweber, S.S., Writing the Biography of a Living Scientist: Hans Bethe
Schweber, Silvan S., Nuclear Forces: The Making of the Physicist Hans Bethe (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 2012).

Broad, William J., New York Times, 7 March 2005
Dyson, Freeman, Science 308, 219 (2005).
The Economist, 17 March 2005
Gottfried, Kurt & Edwin E. Salpeter, Nature 434, 970-71 (21 April 2005).
The Telegraph, 8 March 2005
Times Online, 8 March 2005
Weil, Martin, Washington Post, 8 March 2005
Wijers, Ralph, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 39, 1055-56 (2007).
More obituaries.

AIP Center for History of Physics (many photos)
AIP Center for History of Physics Newsletter, Spring 2005
Caltech Archives (7 photos)
Nelson, Harry N., University of California, Santa Barbara
Cornell University (several, including a painting)

Named after him
Minor Planet #30828 Bethe
American Physical Society, Hans Bethe Prize
Cornell University, Bethe Lecture Series, Hans Bethe House

More references

The Bruce Medalists

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