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My working methods


Looking after visiting Americans in Germany
Hans Bethe Scientist
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I came back to Sommerfeld and I had a fellowship which kept me alive and I served as the second assistant to Sommerfeld, and whenever... especially whenever an American came, he was assigned to me; 'You take care of him.' And one of them... there were two important Americans who came to Sommerfeld at the time. One was Kirkwood, who was a very substantial person in physical chemistry. And the other was Lloyd Smith who was younger and - he was just my age - and wanted to have a problem in quantum mechanics. So I asked him to do the theory of excited states in Helium, and he did that very well, to his satisfaction and my satisfaction, and he became important for me later on in life. I also had some... I think I had two doctorate students. One of them was Henneberg, who did for me a thesis on the scattering of electrons by heavy atoms, angular distribution and all that, which I think was a very good paper and Henneberg unfortunately was sent to the front in the Second World War and was killed in that.

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: Arnold Sommerfeld, JG Kirkwood, Lloyd Smith

Duration: 2 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008