July 2, 1906–March 6, 2005
BY GERALD E. BROWN AND SABINE LEE
HANS ALBRECHT BETHE, who died on March 6, 2005, at the age of 98, was one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, a giant among giants whose legacy will remain with physics and the wider science community for years to come. He was universally admired for his scientific achievement, his integrity, fairness, and for his deeply felt concern for the progress of science and humanity that made him the “conscience of science.” Bethe studied theoretical physics with many of the greatest minds within the physics community, including Sommerfeld, Ewald, and Bohr. His Jewish background made a career in Germany all but impossible, and after a brief spell in England between 1933 and 1935, he emigrated from Germany to the United States. He took up a post at Cornell University where he remained, with exceptions of his work at Los Alamos and several sabbaticals, until the end of his career. Hans Bethe was a universalist who contributed to scientific research for more than seven decades. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on energy production in stars. Many other of his discoveries would have been worthy of a Nobel Prize, for instance, his
Adapted from the memoir published in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, vol. 53, pp. 1-20, 2007. Used with permission.