Hans Bethe

Physicist, Academic

1906 – 2005

 Credit »

Who was Hans Bethe?

Hans Albrecht Bethe was a German and American nuclear physicist who, in addition to making important contributions to astrophysics, quantum electrodynamics and solid-state physics, won the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis.

For most of his career, Bethe was a professor at Cornell University. During World War II, he was head of the Theoretical Division at the secret Los Alamos laboratory which developed the first atomic bombs. There he played a key role in calculating the critical mass of the weapons and developing the theory behind the implosion method used in both the Trinity test and the "Fat Man" weapon dropped on Nagasaki in August 1945.

After the war, Bethe also played an important role in the development of the hydrogen bomb, though he had originally joined the project with the hope of proving it could not be made. Bethe later campaigned with Albert Einstein and the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists against nuclear testing and the nuclear arms race. He helped persuade the Kennedy and Nixon administrations to sign, respectively, the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. His scientific research never ceased and he was publishing papers well into his nineties, making him one of the few scientists to have published at least one major paper in his field during every decade of his career – which, in Bethe's case, spanned nearly seventy years. Freeman Dyson, once one of his students, called him the "supreme problem-solver of the 20th century".

We need you!

Help us build the largest biographies collection on the web!

Jul 2, 1906
Also known as
  • Hans Albrecht Bethe
  • Judaism
  • Ashkenazi Jews
  • Jewish people
  • Germans
  • Germany
  • United States of America
  • Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
    (1943 - )
Lived in
  • United States of America
  • Strasbourg
Mar 6, 2005

on July 23, 2013


Use the citation below to add to a bibliography:


"Hans Bethe." Biographies.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 5 Oct. 2022. <https://www.biographies.net/people/en/hans_bethe>.

Discuss this Hans Bethe biography with the community:


    Browse Biographies.net