[Marxism] Hans Bethe

Louis Proyect 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 
liberal intelligentsia.

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.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/08/science/08bethe.html

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