a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


'Bethe is my student. I want him back.'


Numbers prove theories
Hans Bethe Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

It was numbers that proved Bohr's theory. It was numbers that later on led to the classification of spectra, to... Zeeman effect, determination of the angular momentum from the Zeeman effect and all that; numbers obviously were the way to prove things right. And I... there is one unpublished paper of me which... in which I tried to get the ionization potential, the binding energy of atoms up to Neon. It was a very crude approximation and I showed it to Sommerfeld and Sommerfeld said... discouraged me and said that's really not sufficiently interesting to publish, so I didn't publish it, but somebody else did, I don't remember who.

[Q] So this is already just as you come to the Sommerfeld seminar at the very beginning?

Well this I did, yes, just as I came to the seminar. I was interested in numbers, but that particular attempt I did when I returned to Sommerfeld in the fall of '29.

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: Niels Bohr, Arnold Sommerfeld

Duration: 1 minute, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008