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Getting my doctorate and honours


My working methods
Hans Bethe Scientist
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I just looked at the problem in the Fermi way and solved it and then I wrote it down. The Handbuch article, people described in this way; that I had a stack of white paper on my left side and I filled it and then put it on my right side and at the end of the day the stack was on the right side.

[Q] And the stack was then sent on to the typist.


[Q] And that essentially was more or less the final manuscript?

Yes, more or less. Yes, I think in those days I didn't change terribly much after it had been typed, I changed a little bit before it went to the typist. Nowadays, these papers go through three, four, five revisions and I correct the formulae and I correct the writing - but that's old age.

[Q] But it's also the world of word-processors and it's easier to make corrections than it was.

It's much easier, yes.

[Q] And, so in... you come back and you're again an assistant at Sommerfeld's. You mentioned Henneberg. You said there was a second student that you...

Yes, a second student named Voss who met me again after the war, but I have much less to say about him. I don't even know what it was I gave him as a thesis. But he did finish his Doctors degree.

[Q] And at that stage you're already a Privatdozent, and therefore you can take...

Yes, I gave lectures, I guess about collision theory and I have the report of the university about the tuition payments that the students had made. It was the custom taken still from Middle Ages that the students had to pay, I don't know, 10 Marks apiece for attending a lecture, and so I got some hundred-odd Marks from the students from which then was deducted the income tax and several other things. And there is a very impressive statement from the university treasury paying me the 115.00 Marks which came out.

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: Handbuch der Physik, Arnold Sommerfeld

Duration: 3 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008