Jeffrey LewisHans Bethe, 1906-2005

Hans Bethe, an important figure in the Manhattan Project and long time proponent of arms control, has passed away today, aged 98.

Oh, did I mention the Nobel prize?

His 1968 article, co-authored with Richard Garwin, demolishing the rationale behind the Safeguard ABM system (“Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems,” Scientific American 218:3, March 1968, pp.21-31) is the model for lucid policy analysis of technical matters.

That essay is reproduced in a collection of Bethe’s essays, entitled The Road from Los Alamos.

He also helped make Cornell University a mecca for arms control minded physicists, including Cornell graduates George Lewis, David Wright and Lisbeth Gronlund.

Cornell had the good sense to record three of Bethe’s lectures and has an obituary on its website.


  1. just another historian (History)

    My favorite Bethe quote (from Sam Schweber’s book, In the shadow of the bomb, p.166):

    After the H-bomb was made, reporters started to call Teller the father of the H-bomb. For the sake of history, I think it is more precise to say that Ulam is the father, because he provided the seed, and Teller is the mother, because he remained with the child. As for me, I guess I am the midwife.

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