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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index B > Hans Albrecht Bethe Quotes

Thumbnail of Hans Albrecht Bethe (source)
Hans Albrecht Bethe
(2 Jul 1906 - 6 Mar 2005)

German-American physicist.

Science Quotes by Hans Albrecht Bethe (3 quotes)

As the Director of the Theoretical Division of Los Alamos, I participated at the most senior level in the World War II Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic weapons.
Now, at age 88, I am one of the few remaining such senior persons alive. Looking back at the half century since that time, I feel the most intense relief that these weapons have not been used since World War II, mixed with the horror that tens of thousands of such weapons have been built since that time—one hundred times more than any of us at Los Alamos could ever have imagined.
Today we are rightly in an era of disarmament and dismantlement of nuclear weapons. But in some countries nuclear weapons development still continues. Whether and when the various Nations of the World can agree to stop this is uncertain. But individual scientists can still influence this process by withholding their skills.
Accordingly, I call on all scientists in all countries to cease and desist from work creating, developing, improving and manufacturing further nuclear weapons - and, for that matter, other weapons of potential mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons.
[On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Hiroshima.]
— Hans Albrecht Bethe
Letter, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Nov 1995), 51:6, 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (94)  |  Disarmament (2)  |  Hiroshima (13)  |  Manhattan Project (11)  |  Nation (79)  |  Relief (12)  |  Weapons (2)

Finally I got to carbon, and as you all know, in the case of carbon the reaction works out beautifully. One goes through six reactions, and at the end one comes back to carbon. In the process one has made four hydrogen atoms into one of helium. The theory, of course, was not made on the railway train from Washington to Ithaca ... It didn't take very long, it took about six weeks, but not even the Trans-Siberian railroad [has] taken that long for its journey.
— Hans Albrecht Bethe
'Pleasure from Physics', From A Life of Physics: Evening Lectures at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy. A Special Supplement of the IAEA Bulletin (1968), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Carbon (36)

We need science education to produce scientists, but we need it equally to create literacy in the public. Man has a fundamental urge to comprehend the world about him, and science gives today the only world picture which we can consider as valid. It gives an understanding of the inside of the atom and of the whole universe, or the peculiar properties of the chemical substances and of the manner in which genes duplicate in biology. An educated layman can, of course, not contribute to science, but can enjoy and participate in many scientific discoveries which as constantly made. Such participation was quite common in the 19th century, but has unhappily declined. Literacy in science will enrich a person’s life.
— Hans Albrecht Bethe
In Popular Mechanics (Sep 1961), 256
Science quotes on:  |  Education (239)  |  Layman (9)  |  Literacy (5)  |  Participation (7)  |  Science Literacy (4)

Quotes by others about Hans Albrecht Bethe (2)

The reason Dick's [Richard Feynman] physics was so hard for ordinary people to grasp was that he did not use equations. The usual theoretical physics was done since the time of Newton was to begin by writing down some equations and then to work hard calculating solutions of the equations. This was the way Hans [Bethe] and Oppy [Oppenheimer] and Julian Schwinger did physics. Dick just wrote down the solutions out of his head without ever writing down the equations. He had a physical picture of the way things happen, and the picture gave him the solutions directly with a minimum of calculation. It was no wonder that people who had spent their lives solving equations were baffled by him. Their minds were analytical; his was pictorial.
Quoted in Michio Kaku and Jennifer Trainer Thompson, Beyond Einstein: the Cosmic Quest for the Theory of the Universe (1987, 1999), 56-57, citing Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe (1979, 1981), 55-56.
Science quotes on:  |  Analysis (110)  |  Bafflement (2)  |  Biography (212)  |  Calculation (57)  |  Difficulty (101)  |  Equation (59)  |  Richard P. Feynman (76)  |  Happening (29)  |  Hard (32)  |  Life (670)  |  Minimum (8)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (222)  |  J. Robert Oppenheimer (28)  |  Physics (220)  |  Picture (38)  |  Solution (140)  |  Theoretical Physics (11)  |  Understanding (304)  |  Wonder (100)  |  Writing (71)

Professor Bethe … is a man who has this characteristic: If there’s a good experimental number you’ve got to figure it out from theory. So, he forced the quantum electrodynamics of the day to give him an answer [for the experimentally measured Lamb-shift of hydrogen], … and thus, made the most important discovery in the history of the theory of quantum electrodynamics. He worked this out on the train from Ithaca, New York to Schenectady.
Bethe calculated, what Lamb had experimentally just measured, for the separation of the 2S½ and 2P½ of hydrogen. Both theory and measurement yielded about one thousand megacycles for the Lamb-shift. Feynman was at the time associated with Bethe at Cornell. In Feynman’s Nobel Prize Lecture (11 Dec 1965), 'The Development of the Space-Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics'. Collected in Stig Lundqvist, Nobel Lectures: Physics, 1963-1970 (1998), 170.
Science quotes on:  |  Answer (140)  |  Calculate (12)  |  Characteristic (56)  |  Discovery (509)  |  Experiment (479)  |  History (229)  |  Hydrogen (33)  |  Quantum Electrodynamics (3)  |  Theory (483)

See also:

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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