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Hans Albrecht Bethe

Cornell University

Year: 1959

Subject: Physics

Award: Franklin

Citation: Contributions to the understanding of the physical universe

Biographical Information

Hans Albrecht Bethe was born in Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine, France in 1906. He studied at universities in Frankfurt and Munich, obtaining his Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1928.

In February 1935, he was appointed Assistant Professor at Cornell University, then promoted to Professor in 1937. In addition to his work at Cornell, Dr. Bethe spent time during World War II working at the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working on microwave radar, and then to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory which was engaged in assembling the first atomic bomb.

Bethe's main work is concerned with the theory of atomic nuclei. His work on nuclear reactions led Bethe to the discovery of the reactions which supply the energy in the stars. The most important nuclear reaction in the brilliant stars is the carbon-nitrogen cycle, while the sun and fainter stars use mostly the proton-proton reaction. Bethe's main achievement in this connection was the exclusion of other possible nuclear reactions.

The Franklin Institute honored Bethe with the Franklin Award in 1959. In 1967, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics.