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Joining the MIT radiation laboratory and the Bethe coupler


Armour penetration
Hans Bethe Scientist
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I thought it would surely be important to defend allied warships against submarine attacks, and so I wanted to understand the theory of armor penetration. Now this I did starting from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which had a nice article about it, and then I got together with my friend George Winter, who was a civil engineer at the... at Cornell University. And together we did some experiments pushing metal cylinders through a half inch plate of other material, which confirmed my theory and I wrote a paper on that. And that paper I couldn't see during the war, but it was used afterwards by Nevill Mott in England with some collaborators to further study this subject.

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: Encyclopaedia Britannica, WWII, Nevill Mott

Duration: 1 minute, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008