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Physics journals at the time and Wilhelm Wien


Fritz Kirchner's work on the charge of the electron
Hans Bethe Scientist
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The reader in Sommerfeld's institute was Kirchner who had an experimental lab in the basement of Sommerfeld's institute. The institute wasn't very big, it was about, oh, four rooms on the first floor and the same area in the basement, so Kirchner studying the experiments of Millikan and others came to the conclusion that the... the value of the charge of the electron was not 4.77 as... Millikan had always maintained, but 4.80, and this turned out to be the right number. Sommerfeld's institute was full of postdocs coming from all countries. There was, for instance, Linus Pauling coming from America; there were II Rabi and Ed Condon coming from Russia... from America and Pauling being more on the chemistry side, Rabi and Condon on the physics side. They were all sitting along one long table about 20 people, all the visitors who were full grown physicists and all the graduate students at the same time.

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: Russia, USA, Fritz Kirchner, Linus Pauling, II Rabi, Ed Condon

Duration: 1 minute, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008