Last updated: April 14, 2022
Before he called this his home residence, Dr. Hans Bethe had lived in Strasbourg, Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, and Tubingen, Germany; as well as Cambridge and Manchester, England, Rome, Italy, and Ithaca, New York. Known for his sense of humor and facility for languages, many of the world’s most brilliant physicists, such as Enrico Fermi, sought out Bethe as a collaborator prior to WWII.
One of the greatest hurdles Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer faced in the early phases of Project Y was recruiting talented physicists and other scientists. Oppenheimer relied heavily on the political influence and prestige of Harvard President James Conant when he set off to convince scientists and their families to leave their comfortable campuses for top-secret work in isolated Los Alamos.
Early on, Oppenheimer wanted to recruit Hans Bethe. Thirty-six years old and a talented theorist, Bethe and his wife, Rose, had moved to the United States to avoid anti-Semitic persecution in Nazi Germany. While working at Cornell University, Bethe became known for his confidence and energetic attitude. Oppenheimer believed adding Bethe to the Project Y team at Los Alamos would convince other scientists to join, and Oppenheimer thought Rose could help organize the housing and community at Los Alamos. His efforts paid off. The Bethes decided to make the move to New Mexico, and Dr. Bethe headed the Theoretical Division, a small but prestigious group that studied critical mass and nuclear efficiency.
The Hans Bethe House is now part of the Los Alamos History Museum, and houses the Harold Agnew Cold War Gallery, which explores the Cold War history of Los Alamos through artifacts and exhibits. Honoring the home’s Nobel connections, visitors can view Frederick Reine’s 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Continue Your Journey
Walk along Bathtub Row for a view of the Oppenheimer House. At the end of the Bathtub Row check out the Power House, which originally housed the electrical generator for the Los Alamos Ranch School. At the Los Alamos History Museum, you’ll find exhibits on various eras in the history of Los Alamos. Next to the museum, Fuller Lodge has long stood as a central feature of the community. Learn about local homesteaders at the Romero Cabin and Ancestral Pueblo people at the nearby Ancestral Pueblo Site.