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Hans Bethe

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Hans Albrecht Bethe: Nobel Prize in Physics Recipient-1867
by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Hans Albrecht Bethe was an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1967, for his contributions to the theory of nuclear reactions, especially, his discoveries concerning the energy production in stars.

He was born on July 2, 1906, in Strassburg, Alsace-Lorraine. His mother was Jewish and his father was Christian. He was a student at the Gymnasium in Frankfurt, 1915 to 1924. He then went to the University of Frankfurt and then to the University of Munich, where he earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics.

He taught physics at the University of Frankfort and at the University of Munich, 1929 to 1933. He traveled through Europe and then became the Acting Assistant Professor at the University of Tubingen. He lost this position because the Nazi regime was discharging all Jewish college instructors.

Bethe went to England and was a lecturer at the University of Manchester, for one year, and then received a fellowship at the University of Bristol. In 1935, he received an appointment as an Assistant Professor at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and then in 1937, he was appointed as a Professor.

He remained at Cornell University for the rest of his career, except when he took sabbatical leaves during World War II to work on an atomic bomb. He first went to the Radiation Laboratory of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked on microwave radar. He then went to Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, where he was in charge of its Theoretical Division which was working on the development of an atomic bomb.

Hans Bethe was always involved and concerned with many aspects of physics. In 1934, he, together with Peieris, developed a theory of the deuteron. He studied the theory of nuclear reactions, 1935-1938. This work led Bethe to the discovery of the reactions which supply energy to the stars.

Hans Albrecht Bethe received many awards and honors:
● Henry Draper Medal, 1947
● Max Planck Medal, 1955
● Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1961
● Rumford Prize, 1963Nobel Prize in Physics, 1967
● Lomonosov Gold Medal, 1989
● Oersted Medal, 1993
● Bruce Medal, 2001
Hans Albrecht Bethe died on March 6, 2005, in Ithaca, New York

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