The late German-American physicist Hans Bethe once described himself as the H-bomb's midwife. He left Nazi Germany in 1933, after which he helped develop the first atomic bomb, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967 for his contribution to the theory of nuclear reactions, advocated tighter controls over nuclear weapons and campaigned vigorously for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
I was born on the 2nd of July, 1906. I was born in Strasbourg, but I grew up in Frankfurt. I came from an academic family. My father was Professor of Physiology at the University of Frankfurt. As a boy I was interested in numbers and mathematics but I wanted to study something which was closer to nature, and therefore I began studying physics. I began my studies in Frankfurt at the university in the physics department.
In what year?
That was in 1924. I came to the attention of Doctor Meissner who was a spectroscopist and was the equivalent of a Reader in the physics department. Meissner told me that it was useless for me to take my Doctors degree in Frankfurt and that instead I should go to Munich to study with Arnold Sommerfeld. Sommerfeld had been the teacher of Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, Paul Ewald, and a number of other people of that quality, and he had the most extensive school of theoretical physics in Germany.
Silvan Sam Schweber is the Koret Professor of the History of Ideas and Professor of Physics at Brandeis University, and a Faculty Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of a history of the development of quantum electro mechanics, "QED and the men who made it", and has recently completed a biography of Hans Bethe and the history of nuclear weapons development, "In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist" (Princeton University Press, 2000).
Strasbourg, Frankfurt, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Ma, University of Frankfurt, Karl Meissner, Arnold Sommerfeld, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, Paul Ewald