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Getting to know George Placzek and Edward Teller


Getting my doctorate and honours
Hans Bethe Scientist
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[Q] In 1928 you get your doctorate, and the honors.

Yes, in spring of 1930.

[Q] And in 1928 the doctorate is with what honors?

Summa cum laude.

[Q] With Wien being one of the examiners and he's very happy about your experimental knowledge.

Experimental knowledge, not about my experimental performance. But I knew about cosmic rays and he liked that.

[Q] And, for the Habilitationschrift, who decides that it's okay?

At that time you write your paper, the decision is actually just of your... by your professor, Sommerfeld, but formally you give a lecture to a whole group of faculty members and they... formally they decide that you're satisfactory.

[Q] And then you're officially made a Privatdozent, which gives you the right to teach at any German university.


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: Wilhelm Wien, Arnold Sommerfeld

Duration: 1 minute, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008