Walther Bothe

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Walther Bothe was a German nuclear scientist whose contributions to particle physics and other fields of science and technology were significant. His work was published at a period when nuclear physics was becoming more popular. Many of his works and derivatives are still in use today. Because to his efforts, many groundbreaking findings and insights have come to light. His unquenchable curiosity compelled him to master mathematics and read and write Russian even while in jail. He held many high-ranking positions and pushed the boundaries of theoretical physics throughout his life. He not only studied under numerous greats, but he also taught a few of them. His efforts were not in vain, as he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his achievements. He continued to create new ground in physics despite his illness and weak health. Until the end of his life, he supervised and provided input to a large number of people. In the area of physics, his never-ending output served both a foundation and a wealth of information.

Childhood and Adolescence

Walther Wilhelm Georg Bothe was born in Oranienburg, near Berlin, Germany, on January 8, 1891, to Charlotte Hartung and Fredrich Bothe.
He was always fascinated by physics as a child. Between 1908 and 1912, Bothe attended Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin (now known as the Humboldt University of Berlin).

He excelled in mathematics, physics, and chemistry while studying under the supervision of renowned physicist Max Planck. In 1913, he became Planck’s teaching assistant. In 1914, just before the First World War broke out, he received his doctorate from Planck.

Career of Walther Bothe

He was hired in the Physikalische-Technische Reichsanstalt in 1913. (presently known as Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt). He was a ‘Professor Extraordinary’ there until 1930.

After earning his degree in 1914, he enlisted in the German cavalry. He was kidnapped by the Russians and held captive in Siberia for over five years. He chose to study mathematics while in prison and also learned to read and write Russian. In 1920, he was released and returned to Germany.

Walther Bothe was a physicist who worked on both theoretical and experimental projects. He studied alpha and beta ray scattering and developed a theory involving scattering at short angles.

In 1924, he and Hans Geiger conducted an experiment on the wavelike qualities of radiation. They both came up with a new quantum theory of radiation. His coincidence approach was published, and he used it to explore nuclear reactions, the “Compton Effect,” and the wave-particle duality of light.

He obtained a ‘Privatdozent’ (denotes the capacity to teach independently at the university level) in 1925, while still at the Physikalische-Technische Reichsanstalt. In 1929, he was promoted to ‘ausserordentlicher Professor’ (extraordinarius professor) at the university.

In 1929, he began a new research project focused on cosmic rays. This subject would become his lifelong inspiration. He worked on this project with Werner Kolhörster and Bruno Rossi, two visiting lecturers at the institution.

He was named ‘Director of the Institute of Physics’ at the Justus Liebig-Universität Gießen in 1930 as a ‘ordentlicher Professor’ (ordinarius professor) (University of Giessen). In 1930, he discovered that when beryllium is attacked with alpha particles, it emits a unique radiation. Sir James Chadwick would subsequently discover the neutron in 1932 as a result of this.

In 1932, Walther Bothe was named Director of the University of Heidelberg’s Physikalische und Radiologische Institut (Physical and Radiological Institute).

With Hitler’s ascension to power, the concept of Deutsche Physik, or Aryan Physics, began to gain traction. It was a political notion that was opposed to quantum mechanics as well as theoretical, contemporary, atomic, and nuclear physics. As a result, there have been a number of violent attacks on theoretical physicists. He was able to advance to the Directorship of the Institut für Physik (Institute for Physics) at the ‘Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für medizinische Forschung’ (the Max-Planck-Institut für medizinische Forschung) thanks to Philipp Lenard’s influence.

He built a cyclotron at Heidelberg with finances raised from numerous research groups. He was able to work on neutron diffusion theory and related observations during World War II.

In 1940, he published his study article, ‘Atlas of Typical Cloud Chamber Images.’ It comprised photos obtained from Heinz Maier-cloud Leibnitz’s chamber. It illustrates dispersed particles as well as methods for identifying them.

Between 1946 to 1957, he was a ‘ordentlicher Professor’ at the University of Heidelberg. During 1956 and 1957, he was a member of the ‘Deutschen Atomkommission’ (German Atomic Energy Commission’Arbeitskreis )’s Kernphysik’ (Nuclear Physics Working Group).

Major Projects of Walther Bothe

The ‘Coincidence Circuit,’ which works on the coincidence principle, is his most well-known work. Walther Bothe investigated the coincidences between dispersed X-rays and recoiling electrons using two Geiger counters. The findings pointed to energy and momentum conservation on a microscopic scale. He also applied this idea to demonstrate that cosmic rays behave similarly to particles.

Achievements & Awards

Walther Bothe was co-awarded the “Nobel Prize in Physics” in 1954 for his coincidence approach and the discoveries achieved with it. Max Born was the other recipient of the award. Many particle physics investigations, as well as other fields of research and technology, use the coincidence method and related circuits.

He was made a Knight of the Order of Merit for Sciences and Arts in 1952.

He received the Max-Planck-Medaille of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft in 1953.

Personal History and Legacy

Walther Bothe met Barbara Below while imprisoned in Russia. She was born in Moscow and moved to Germany with him following their wedding in 1920. They had two children together.

Despite his busy schedule, he made time to paint. Mountains were his muse, and he experimented in oil and watercolor paintings. He talked about French impressionists with the same zeal that he talked about physics.

He was also a music fan who enjoyed Beethoven and Bach’s works. He used to go to a lot of concerts and play the piano.

He was a demanding and stern teacher at work, with a flair for attention and speed. He was a pleasant and hospitable man at home, however, with a lot of ease and contentment.

He died on February 8, 1957, in Heidelberg, West Germany, at the age of 66.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Walther Bothe is unknown.