Hans Bethe

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Hans Albrecht Bethe was a nuclear physicist who worked in both Germany and the United States. He was also one of the most influential theoretical physicists of the twentieth century. He aided in the development of quantum physics as a subject. Bethe published nearly 300 scholarly papers throughout the course of his 60-year career. He spent the majority of his career as a professor at Cornell University. He assisted the United States in developing the atomic bomb during World War II, and then spent the remainder of his life attempting to prevent nuclear proliferation. He calculated the critical mass of the bombs while working on the Manhattan Project. He was well recognized as a scientist for calculating and identifying how stars produce light, for which he received a Nobel Prize. He also provided scientific advice to Presidents from Truman to Clinton. Despite the fact that he withdrew from teaching in 1975, he continued to pursue his other interests until his death. He had educated generations of physicists in a variety of domains, including particle, solid state, nuclear, and astrophysics, as a speaker. By the 1990s, he wanted nuclear tests to be completely banned. He continued to publish scientific publications as well. He spent the last years of his life studying and writing about celebrity deaths.

Childhood and Adolescence

Hans Bethe was born in Strasbourg on July 2, 1906. Albrecht and Anna Bethe had only one child, and his father taught physiology at the ‘University of Strasbourg.’
After Albrecht Bethe got a job at the ‘University of Kiel,’ the family relocated to Kiel in 1912. Albrecht was named the head of the ‘Institute of Physiology’ at the ‘University of Frankfurt am Main’ three years later, and the family relocated once more.

Hans attended Frankfurt’s ‘Goethe-Gymnasium’ until he caught TB in 1916. He was transferred to ‘Bad Kreuznach’ to recover and spent roughly a year there.

In 1924, Bethe enrolled in the ‘University of Frankfurt.’ He concentrated in chemistry at first, but after being taught by Walter Gerlach, he became captivated with physics.

Bethe was persuaded by another mentor, Karl Meissner, to attend the ‘University of Munich,’ which had a better physics curriculum. Bethe began studying under Arnold Sommerfeld at the ‘University of Munich’ in 1926.

He received his doctorate in physics in 1928 after completing a thesis on electron diffraction in crystals. In the same year, he worked in Frankfurt with Erwin Madelung.

He was named a ‘Rockefeller Foundation’ fellow in 1930. As a result, he spent a semester at ‘Cambridge University’ studying with Ralph Fowler, and the next semester at the ‘University of Rome’ working with Enrico Fermi.

Career of Hans Bethe

Bethe returned to Germany and became a lecturer at Tübingen University. He was fired from his job after Hitler took power in 1933 because his mother was Jewish. He quickly fled to the United Kingdom.

Bethe was given a position at Cornell University in 1935, and he traveled to the United States to accept it. He spent the rest of his academic career at Cornell. His research became more and more concentrated on nuclear physics.

Bethe attended a congress of astrophysicists at the ‘Carnegie Institute’ in 1938. He was inspired to investigate “What makes stars shine?” when he was there. He quickly arrived at the answer by applying his knowledge of nuclear fusion and reactions.

He contributed to the war effort by working on radar devices at MIT during WWII. Later, he was assigned to the Los Alamos Manhattan Project. He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb as the main theoretical physicist. He also contributed to the establishment of the scientific magazine ‘Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.’

He had aided in the development of the bomb because he was afraid of what would happen if Hitler possessed nuclear weapons. He thought the atomic bomb was immoral and opposed the spread of nuclear weapons.

Despite initially opposing the creation of the hydrogen bomb, he assisted in its development during the ‘Korean War.’ He had feared, as had the Germans before World War II, that the Communists would create the hydrogen bomb first.

He was a key figure in the 1963 ‘Partial Test Ban Treaty.’ It made it illegal to test nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.

He established the ‘Aspen Center for Physics’ with some of the award money he received after winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967. It is a non-profit organization that hosts research physicists’ conferences and workshops.

He promoted nuclear energy as a source of electricity in the 1980s and 1990s. He was a member of a group that investigated the origins of the 1986 Chernobyl tragedy.

Major Projects of Hans Bethe

‘Bethe’s Bible’ consisted of three long papers produced in 1936-37 for the ‘Journal Reviews of Modern Physics.’ It was a comprehensive overview of the status of nuclear physics at the time, and the ‘Bible’ was nearly 500 pages lengthy. After 50 years, they were reissued as a book.

In 1939, ‘Physical Review’ published ‘Energy Production in Stars.’ Bethe outlined the method by which sun-like stars combine helium and hydrogen to produce energy that emits massive amounts of light and heat in this publication.

Achievements & Awards

For his contributions to astrophysics, Bethe was named a “Foreign Fellow of the Royal Society” in 1957.

He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967 for his research into how stars produce energy and light.

Personal History and Legacy

Hans married Rose in 1939, and they had two children, Henry and Monica.

In 1941, Bethe was granted naturalization as a US citizen. He later admitted that he felt more at ease in the United States than he did in Germany.

He died of congestive heart failure on March 6, 2005, at his home in Ithaca, New York. Bethe had three grandkids at the time of his death.

Estimated Net Worth

Hans is one of the wealthiest physicists and one of the most well-known physicists. Hans Bethe’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


He never used a computer to do his math. He used a slide rule, pencil, and paper for everything.