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Visiting Isidor Isaac Rabi


Electrodynamics and becoming a full professor at Cornell
Hans Bethe Scientist
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The subject which interested me most was quantum electrodynamics, and one of the leading people in this was Robert Oppenheimer, but he didn't come to these conferences, but I knew that he was very good at it and very interested. I think Uhlenbeck did come to the conferences and knew something about quantum electrodynamics, and then beginning in '37, Weisskopf. So this was a great joy and I learned... I sort of explored the eastern part of the United States, as far west as Chicago and enjoyed all of it very much. One invitation was from the University of Illinois at Urbana, which led to an offer of a full professorship. I liked to be a full professor, but I'd rather be a full professor at Cornell, so I made that known to Professor Gibbs and then to the president of the university, and they matched my salary and... and made me also a full professor here. That happened in '37.

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: Cornell University, University of Illinois, J Robert Oppenheimer, George Uhlenbeck, Victor Weiskopff

Duration: 1 minute, 56 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008