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Teaching at Tübingen and the rise of Nazism


Getting to know George Placzek and Edward Teller
Hans Bethe Scientist
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In the spring of '32 I went again to Rome, still on the Rockefeller Fellowship. This time I was almost completely occupied by writing the Handbuch articles, but I had a very good time. There were two other visitors, George Placzek and Edward Teller. George Placzek in... sat to my left in the same room in which I was writing. He had a very... he also was supposed to write a Handbuch article about the Raman Effect, but he found it far more difficult to deal with that. And so mostly he turned the pages, but there was not much on it. But I developed a very nice friendship with Placzek who was one of the nicest and most thoroughgoing people I have known. He was indeed studying the Raman Effect of molecules and later on he was... he studied the behavior of neutrons diffusing through matter. Every time he was extremely thorough and went to the sources. Usually he loved the library at the institute in Rome because he could follow the subject of Light Scattering back to 1800's, and he then used that in his article. We went out to dinner together every day and remained friends ever since. There was also Edward Teller who mostly worked outside the institute, but also worked about molecules and I got to know him also well and we also became friends.

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: University of Rome, Rockefeller Foundation, Handbuch der Physik, Edward Teller, George Placzek

Duration: 2 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008