Hans Albrecht Bethe. 2 July 1906 — 6 March 2005

Sabine Lee , Gerry E. Brown

Elected ForMemRS 1957


Hans Albrecht Bethe, who died on 6 March 2005 at the age of 98 years, was one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century, a giant among giants whose legacy will remain with physics and the wider science community for years to come. He was universally admired for his scientific achievement, his integrity, fairness and for deeply felt concern for the progress of science and humanity which made him the ‘conscience of science’. Be the studied theoretical physics with many of the greatest minds within the physics community including Sommerfeld, Ewald and Bohr. His Jewish background made a career in Germany all but impossible, and after a brief spell in England between 1933 and 1935 he emigrated to the USA. He took up a post at Cornell University, where he remained, except for his work at Los Alamos and several sabbaticals, until the end of his career. Hans Bethe was a universalist who contributed to scientific research for more than seven decades. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on energy production in stars. Many other of his discoveries would have been worthy of a Nobel Prize, for instance his work on the Lamb shift or his work on the nuclear many–body problem. Like many of his colleagues who had contributed to the development of nuclear weapons, Hans Bethe devoted much of his time and energy to the control of these weapons, to nuclear disarmament and to the promotion of greater understanding between East and West, most notably through his activities within the framework of the Pugwash Movement.