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Also included are five essays on notable contemporaries of Bethe in the world of physics. The book has a few faults. One is that there are no illustrations: an article that first appeared in, say, Scientific American, is bound to lose something when reproduced without the pictures and diagrams. The reader is left to work out what he is like from his own writing. A biographical introduction by someone else would have added a lot. As long ago as , he wrote an essay, the first in the book, pointing out that it would take another nation several years to get its own nuclear weapons, about as long as it did the US, suggesting that there was no pressing need for the US to build up a massive stock of bombs for use as a deterrent.

More recently, he has argued for a freeze on nuclear tests and against the Strategic Defense Initiative, making the point that the superiority of American nuclear forces over those of the Soviet Union gives the US an interest in slowing down the arms race rather than precipitating a new phase.

Nuclear Forces: The Making of the Physicist Hans Bethe

This growth in the cost and importance of science has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in the position of science in public life, but it does mean that even junior scientists now have administrative and other responsibilities that erode the effort they can put into doing science.

Many have gone on to become internationally known scientists, among them Freeman Dyson. Bethe and his co-workers published important work across the whole spectrum of physics. Even today, in his nineties, his unique mastery of such diverse subjects as thermonuclear processes, shock waves and neutrino reactions have kept Bethe at the forefront of research in astrophysics.

Bethe's impact transcends the Cornell Physics Department. The distinction of astronomy at Cornell owes much to Bethe's inspiration and initiatives. He has been an advisor to several United States presidents on national security policy and, since World War II, has played a leading role in the public debate about nuclear weapons, defense policy and nuclear power. He was one of the founders of the Federation of Atomic Scientists and was a member of the original Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. At times, Dr.

Bethe took the older Ewald children on Sunday walks, including Rose, his future wife. After stints at several universities, he came into conflict with the Nazi race laws and fled Germany in For two years he taught in England and then came to Cornell, where he remained all his academic life. While lecturing at Duke University in , he bumped into Rose Ewald, who had emigrated and was a student there.

Nuclear Forces: The Making of the Physicist Hans Bethe

The two fell in love. At Cornell, Dr. Bethe wrote a series of brilliant papers that culminated in the treatise, "Energy Production in Stars. His talents were synthetic as well as analytic, as evidenced by his production of a wealth of incisive review articles that became required reading for generations of physicists.

Known as "Bethe's bible," they, like much else he did, mirrored his precision, thoroughness and extraordinary powers of concentration. The world -- and his world in particular -- changed forever in when German scientists discovered that the atom could be split in two in a burst of atomic energy, starting quiet deliberations around the globe into the practicality of chain reactions and a bomb. In America, Dr. Bethe discussed the matter with Dr. Teller, another refugee from the Nazis.

Nuclear Forces: The Making of the Physicist Hans Bethe

The two were close friends. In New Rochelle, N. Teller was one of the few guests invited in September when Dr. Bethe and Rose were married. Bethe's reputation grew with the war effort. In , during a walk in the mountains of Yosemite, his wife asked him "to consider carefully" if he wanted to continue assessing the feasibility of nuclear arms, Dr. Worried that Nazi Germany wanted such weapons, he decided that he did. In , he was named the first director of the theoretical division at Los Alamos, the secret laboratory in the mountains of New Mexico where thousands of scientists, technicians and military personnel were gathering to see if a nuclear bomb was indeed possible.

Behind rows of barbed wire, he coaxed some of world's brightest and most idiosyncratic experts to work hard on how to unlock the atom. In typical fashion, he bore down on the problems like a battleship, studying them carefully and then crushing them. Colleagues often balked.

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But Dr. Bethe plowed ahead, proving his idea exactly right. At Los Alamos, Dr. Bethe's group calculated such things as how much plutonium it would take to build an atom bomb, and whether the detonation would ignite the atmosphere and destroy the earth. The bomb's horrors became a turning point for Dr. After the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he devoted himself to trying to stop the weapon's "own impulse," as he put it. While retaining links to the government and Los Alamos, he helped lead the corps of atomic scientists who, in an unprecedented wave, left secluded laboratories to plead before Congress and the American public for nuclear restraint.

He also plunged back into academic life at Cornell, educating a new generation of physicists. He recruited Dr. Feynman eventually shared the Nobel Prize. In April , Dr. Bethe wrote a provocative article in Scientific American arguing against development of the hydrogen bomb, an advance then looming. He had concluded, after discussions with his wife and colleagues, that it had little military use and was primarily a weapon for incinerating civilians in large cities. By contrast, Dr. Teller lobbied hard for the superbomb, as it was called. Bethe worked on it too, hoping to prove the idea impossible and considering his work a hedge against the possibility that the Soviets might get it first.

In , a blinding flash of light marked the detonation of the world's first hydrogen bomb, its power roughly 1, times greater than the weapon that destroyed Hiroshima. During the cold war, Dr. Bethe and Dr. Teller went from increasingly cool friends to bitter foes. The breaking point came in -- at the height of the McCarthy era -- over the government's push to remove the security clearance of Dr.

Oppenheimer, then the top scientific adviser to the Atomic Energy Commission and a man who probably held more nuclear secrets in his head than any other American. One charge was that Dr. Oppenheimer had argued against a crash program for H-bomb development. Another was that he had Communist ties. In Washington, Dr. Bethe and his wife spent an evening trying to persuade Dr.

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Teller to testify in favor of Dr. Oppenheimer -- to no avail. At a secret hearing, Dr. Bethe defended his former boss, and Dr.

Hans Bethe - Subatomic phenomena; quarks and gluons (157/158)

Teller strongly faulted Dr. Oppenheimer's judgment. His clearance was revoked, and he quickly fell from power.

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Bethe later wrote a long article charging that Dr. Teller, not Dr. Oppenheimer, had hindered the nation's pursuit of the superbomb for years because of mathematical errors. It was only after the size of Teller's mistakes became apparent, Dr. Bethe wrote, that Dr. Teller and his colleagues were forced to find the right way to solve the problem.

The article, written in , was quickly stamped top secret and only declassified three decades later. Despite his fears of an unfettered arms race, Dr. Bethe continued to consult for the government and on occasion to help make weapons. In , he perfected a general theory of ablation that was applied to the construction of warheads that could withstand the searing heat of re-entry through the earth's atmosphere.

His idea helped beget the intercontinental ballistic missile. Increasingly, he also sought ways to slow the nuclear arms race, winning new influence for his ideas in Washington. As a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee, starting in , he became a driving force behind the world's first and most successful arms control pact, the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which confined nuclear tests beneath the earth.

In usual fashion, Dr.

Teller fought it all the way.