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Albrecht Unsöld's work on stars


1926: a fortunate time to study with Arnold Sommerfeld
Hans Bethe Scientist
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I came to Sommerfeld in the spring of 1926. This was an extremely fortunate time. The year before Heisenberg had invented quantum mechanics and just at the time I came, Schrödinger was finding wave mechanics which made things much more easily calculable and which also fitted well into Sommerfeld's previous work. The... Sommerfeld was very close to the editor of the Annalen der Physik, which was one of the important journals in physics at the time, and Sommerfeld got the galley proofs of all the papers of Schrödinger, so Sommerfeld asked all his graduate students to report on these papers one by one. We really learned Schrödinger's papers from beginning to end, every one of us got a part of it. I was to report on perturbation theory and I have used Schrödinger's perturbation theory all my life to good effect.

The late German-American physicist Hans Bethe once described himself as the H-bomb's midwife. He left Nazi Germany in 1933, after which he helped develop the first atomic bomb, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967 for his contribution to the theory of nuclear reactions, advocated tighter controls over nuclear weapons and campaigned vigorously for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Listeners: Sam Schweber

Silvan Sam Schweber is the Koret Professor of the History of Ideas and Professor of Physics at Brandeis University, and a Faculty Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of a history of the development of quantum electro mechanics, "QED and the men who made it", and has recently completed a biography of Hans Bethe and the history of nuclear weapons development, "In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist" (Princeton University Press, 2000).

Tags: Annalen der Physik, Arnold Sommerfeld, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger

Duration: 1 minute, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008