[Marxism] Hans Bethe
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 8 07:20:42 MST 2005
NY Times, March 8, 2005
Hans Bethe, Prober of Sunlight and Atomic Energy, Dies at 98
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Hans A. Bethe, who discovered the violent reactions behind sunlight, helped
devise the atom bomb and eventually cried out against the military excesses
of the cold war, died late Sunday. He was 98, among the last of the giants
who inaugurated the nuclear age.
His death was announced by Cornell University, where he worked and taught
for 70 years. A spokesman said he died quietly at home.
Since the war years at Los Alamos, N.M., Dr. Bethe had lived in Ithaca,
N.Y., an unpretentious man of uncommon gifts. His students called him Hans
and admired his muddy shoes as much as the way he explained how certain
kinds of stars shine. For number crunching, in lieu of calculators, he
relied on a slide rule, its case battered. "For the things I do," he
remarked a few years ago, "it's accurate enough."
For nearly eight decades, Dr. Bethe (pronounced BAY-tah) pioneered some of
the most esoteric realms of physics and astrophysics, politics and
armaments, long advising the federal government and in time emerging as the
science community's liberal conscience.
During the war, he led the theoreticians who devised the atom bomb and for
decades afterwards fought against many new arms proposals. His wife, Rose,
often discussed moral questions with him and, by all accounts, helped him
decide what was right and wrong.
Dr. Bethe fled Europe for the United States in the 1930's and quickly
became a star of science. As a physicist, he made discoveries in the world
of tiny particles described by quantum mechanics and the whorls of time and
space envisioned by relativity theory. He did so into his mid-90's,
astonishing colleagues with his continuing vigor and insight.
In a 1938 paper, he explained one of the ways in which the sun and similar
stars fuse hydrogen into helium, releasing bursts of energy and ultimately
light. That work helped establish his reputation as the father of nuclear
astrophysics, and nearly 30 years later, in 1967, earned him the Nobel
Prize in Physics. In all, he published more than 300 scientific and
technical papers, many of them originally classified secret.
Politically, Dr. Bethe was the liberal counterpoint (and proud of it) to
Edward Teller, the Hungarian physicist and strong conservative who played a
dominant role in developing the hydrogen bomb. It brought to earth a more
furious version of the fusion reactions in stars, and Dr. Bethe opposed its
development as immoral. For more than a half-century, he championed many
forms of arms control and nuclear disarmament, becoming a hero of the
His wife called him a dove, Dr. Bethe once told an interviewer, adding his
own qualifier: "A tough dove." His gentle manner hid an iron will and mind
that had few hesitations about identifying what he saw as error, hypocrisy
or danger. "His sense of duty toward society is so deeply ingrained that he
isn't even aware of its being a sacrifice," a close colleague, Victor F.
Weisskopf, once remarked.
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