Press Release

In ‘bittersweet’ ceremony, Hans Bethe is posthumously awarded American Philosophical Society’s Benjamin Franklin Medal

By SpaceRef Editor
March 10, 2005
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ITHACA, N.Y. — Three days after his death, Nobel laureate Hans
Bethe, emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University and an
architect of the age of modern atomic theory, was posthumously
awarded the 2005 Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished
Achievement in the Sciences by the American Philosophical Society (APS).

The APS is the oldest learned society in the United States. The medal
is the society’s highest honor for lifetime achievement in the
sciences.

The medal was presented to Bethe’s widow, Rose, at their home in
Ithaca, March 9, by APS president Frank H.T. Rhodes, president
emeritus of Cornell.

“This a very special occasion, and it is clearly for all of us a
bittersweet day,” said Rhodes in presenting the award. “It is a day
of sorrow, but it is also a day of joy. It is a day of sadness, but
it is also a day of pride. Because we remember a great life. A long
life. A rich life, nobly and generously lived. I don’t know how you
do justice to all the greatness that is Hans Bethe,” he said.

Accepting the award for her late husband, Rose Bethe said: “Hans was
very touched when he heard about [receiving this award] because he
thought that at his age to be honored once more was really beyond
anything he had hoped for. He was particularly struck that the
Philosophical Society was founded for the promotion of useful
knowledge, because that’s what he believed in.”

The award citation for Hans Bethe reads:

In recognition of his role as

A preeminent physicist of the twentieth century, whose productive
research career has spanned eight decades.

A pioneer in atomic physics, whose seminal work on stellar energy
production earned him the 1967 Nobel Prize.

A leader of the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos.

A senior statesman of science and advisor to U.S. Presidents on atomic
energy.

A courageous critic of defense policy and passionate advocate of arms
control.

A beloved mentor to generations of Cornell physicists, whose efforts
helped to transform the Cornell University Physics Department into
one of the world’s great centers of physics.

The medal was established in 1906 by the United States Congress to
mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin, who
founded the society in 1743.

One of science’s most universally admired figures, Bethe died at his
home on March 6.

The following is the list of recipients of the American Philosophical
Society’s Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in
the Sciences*:

  • 1985 Charles Brenton Huggins
  • 1986 Helen Brooke Taussig (posthumously)
  • 1987 Samuel Noah Kramer
  • 1987 Otto Neugebauer
  • 1988 Sune Bergström
  • 1988 Jonathan E. Rhoads
  • 1989 John A. Wheeler
  • 1990 Crawford H. Greenewalt
  • 1990 Britton Chance
  • 1990 James B. Pritchard
  • 1991 Lyman Spitzer
  • 1993 Sir Michael Atiyah
  • 1993 Barbara McClintock (posthumously)
  • 1993 Emily H. Mudd
  • 1993 Ruth Patrick
  • 1993 Chen Ning Yang
  • 1995 Ernst Mayr
  • 1996 Victor A. McKusick
  • 1997 Herman H. Goldstine**
  • 1998 Edward O. Wilson
  • 1999 Frederick C. Robbins
  • 1999 Phillip A. Sharp
  • 2000 William O. Baker
  • 2001 Francis H. C. Crick and James D. Watson
  • 2001 Alexander G. Bearn**
  • 2002 Joshua Lederberg
  • 2003 Janet D. Rowley
  • 2004 Steven Weinberg
  • 2005 Hans A. Bethe

* Until 1993 this award was known as the Benjamin Franklin Award for
Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities or the Sciences. In 1993 the
Thomas Jefferson Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts,
Humanities or Social Sciences was created, and the Franklin medal’s name
was changed to Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences.

** In addition to honoring distinguished achievement in science, this
award honored exemplary service as the society’s executive officer.

SpaceRef staff editor.