Hans Albrecht Bethe (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Bethe’s work in theoretical nuclear physics explained how stars converted mass to energy and broadened the scientific understanding of subatomic events. Long an influential advocate for restraint in the proliferation of nuclear weapons, he laid the theoretical groundwork for the explosion of the first atom bomb.
Hans Albrecht Bethe was the only child of Albrecht Theodore Julius Bethe, an eminent German physiologist, and Anna (Kuhn) Bethe, a musician and playwright. Hans came from a long line of university professors; his oldest uncle was a professor of Greek at the University of Leipzig, and his grandmother and mother both had fathers who were professors. The elder Bethe’s family was Protestant; his wife’s was Jewish. As a child, Hans was frail, lonely, and perhaps overprotected by his mother. Numbers dominated his life. At age five, Hans made a remark to his mother about the properties of zero, and at age seven, he filled a notebook with the powers of two and three. His father was concerned that Hans not progress too far beyond the mathematics appropriate to his grade in school.
The family moved to Frankfurt, Germany, in 1915, in response to an invitation to Albrecht Bethe to start a department of physiology at the University of Frankfurt. Though Hans had earlier received instruction from a private tutor, in Frankfurt, he attended the gymnasium, a nine-year school. Hans...
(The entire section is 2611 words.)
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