Monday, March 07, 2005

Alpher, Bethe, Gamow

Hans Bethe, Nobel laureate and giant of theoretical physics, died today. I will leave commentary about his life and work to the physicists, but remember one fairly well-known anecdote regarding him and George Gamow.

From Quark Soup:
Here is Gamow's own account, from his popular science book _The Creation of the Universe_:

"The results of these calculations were first announced in a letter to _The Physical Review_, April 1, 1948. This was signed Alpher, Bethe, and Gamow, and is often referred to as the 'alphabetical article.' It seemed unfair to the Greek alphabet to have the article signed by Alpher and Gamow only, and so the name of Dr. Hans A. Bethe (_in absentia_) was inserted in preparing the manuscript for print. Dr. Bethe, who received a copy of the manuscript, did not object, and, as a matter of fact, was quite helpful in subsequent discussions. There was, however, a rumor that later, when the alpha, beta, gamma theory went temporarily on the rocks, Dr. Bethe seriously considered changing his name to Zacharias.

"The close fit of the calculated curve and the observed abundances is shown in Fig. 15, which represents the results of later calculations carried out on the electronic computer of the National Bureau of Standards by Ralph Alpher and R. C. Herman (who stubbornly refuses to change his name to Delter.)"

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