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Walther Bothe

Walther BotheAKA Walther Wilhelm Georg Bothe

Born: 8-Jan-1891
Birthplace: Oranienburg, Germany
Died: 8-Feb-1957
Location of death: Heidelberg, Germany
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: Germany
Executive summary: Coincidence method

Military service: German Army, 1914-20

German physicist Walther Bothe (pronounced BOH-tuh) studied under Max Planck, and worked early in his career under Hans Geiger. Beginning in 1924 he used Compton scattering and two of Geiger's particle counters to develop the coincidence method, a system for tracking collisions between electrons and electromagnetic quanta, and identifying and studying individual atomic and nuclear processes. His work showed that cosmic rays consist of massive particles, not merely photons, and the coincidence method became an important tool in nuclear physics. His 1930 alpha ray bombardment study provided the clues that James Chadwick used to discover the neutron two years later. He also developed the transport theory of neutrons in 1941. He shared the 1954 Nobel Prize for Physics with Max Born.

During the First World War, Bothe was an Army gunner, and he was captured and held prisoner for a year in Siberia, where he met his future wife. During the Second World War he oversaw construction of Germany's first cyclotron, which went on-line in 1943. He also worked on the Fuhrer's effort to design an atomic bomb, and historians have generally concluded that an error by Bothe in calculating graphite's ability to absorb neutrons was a key factor in the failure of this project.

Father: Fritz Bothe
Mother: Charlotte Hartung Bothe
Wife: Barbara Below (m. 1920, d. 1955, two children)

    University: PhD Physics, University of Berlin (1908-12)
    Scholar: Imperial Physical Technical Institute, Berlin (1913-30)
    Teacher: Physics, University of Berlin (1925-29)
    Professor: Physics, University of Berlin (1929-30)
    Professor: Physics, University of Giessen (1930-32)
    Professor: Physics, University of Heidelberg (1932-57)
    Administrator: Institute of Physics, University of Heidelberg (1932-57)

    Nobel Prize for Physics 1954 (with Max Born)
    Max Planck Medal 1953
    Knighthood Order of Merit for Science and the Arts
    Taken Prisoner of War in Russian Siberia (1919-20)
    German Ancestry

Author of books:
Nuclear Physics and Cosmic Rays (1948, physics; three volumes)
Atlas of Cloud-Chamber Figures (1940, nonfiction)

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