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Stanley Livingston's small cyclotron


First impressions of Cornell
Hans Bethe Scientist
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I came by boat, of course, to New York, and then from there by train to Ithica. Ithica was a sleepy little town and it seemed to me when I went for short walks that it was surrounded by nothing. When you went to the edge of Ithica outside there was nothing. But the university was very lively. The university had good students and I gave my regular lectures, I think two courses. One was... one probably was something like electron magnetism, and the other was a special course on theory of collisions. Students were attentive and came very regular to the lectures, which isn't always true in Germany and even less in England.

[Q] And a course like a... the collision course would have how many grads... how big were the grad...?

There were about 40 graduate students, and about, oh, maybe 15 faculties. And I felt very soon quite at home. In fact already by the summer of... of '35 I felt quite at home here and while I went back to Europe for the summer, it was clear to me that... that America would be a good place to stay and remain. The faculty were extremely nice to me and I had the impression that probably I would stay here for a long, long time. There was a very nice senior theoretical physicist, Kennard, who had written a book about modern physics together with Richtmyer. There was a very nice experimental physicist, Murdoch, who later became Dean of the Graduate School, and there were assistant professors like Smith, and... quite a number of others. And there were nice graduate students, one of them stayed here for ever, that was Paul Hartman, who is still at Cornell.

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: Ithica, Cornell University, Floyd K Richtmyer, Paul Hauptman, EH Kennard, Carleton C Murdock

Duration: 3 minutes, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008