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Freeman Dyson: An excellent graduate

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Feynman's new ideas at The Pocono Conference
Hans Bethe Scientist
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Well, at Pocono, Schwinger and Feynman, respectively presented their theories. Schwinger's was closely connected to the known quantum electrodynamics, so Niels Bohr, who was in the audience, immediately was convinced this was correct. And then Feynman came with his completely new ideas, which among other things involved positrons going backwards in time. And Niels Bohr was shocked, that couldn't possibly be true, and gave Feynman a very hard time. I was convinced that Feynman had done the right thing and... and told him afterwards 'Well, you're OK, what you've done is certainly right.' And Feynman also was very encouraged by having talked to Schwinger, and the two of them had agreed, very well.

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.

Listeners: Sam Schweber

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).

Tags: Pocono Manor, Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, Niels Bohr

Duration: 1 minute, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008