March 10, 2005

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

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.

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.