Werner Heisenberg: Atomic Physics Mentorees (about 1930)

Figure 1.--Werner Heisenberg was after the flight of Jews, NAZI Germany's top theoretical pysicist and was chosen to lead the NAZI bomb project. He was by all accounts a cultured man and mentiored many young physicists, includuing Jews and foreigners. Here he is about 1931 with some of the young phyicists he mentored. Incredibly, because of Hitkler's race onsession, he virtually single handedly disarmed Germany physics. None of these men joined Heisenberg in the NAZI atomic program. Four of them, all Jews, joined the Allied Manhattan Project. The men are: Back--Gian Carlo Wick, Felix Bloch, Victor Weisskopf, Fritz Sauter. Front--George Placzek, Rudolf Peierls, Werner Heisenberg. One man is unidentified. Perhaps readers will know who he was. These four of course are only a few of the emigree scientists that worked on the Manhattan Project.

World War I had been fought primrily with 19th century weapons. World War II was different. It was a very modern war in which scintists, especially physicists would play vital roles. Werner Heisenberg was after the flight of Jews, NAZI Germany's top theoretical pysicist and was chosen to lead the NAZI bomb project. He was by all accounts a cultured man and mentiored many young physicists, includuing Jews and foreigners. Here he is about 1930 with some of the young phyicists he menyored. Incredibly, because of Hitkler's race onsession, he virtually single handedly disarmed Germany physics. None of these men these men joined Heisenberg in the NAZI atomic program. Four joined the Allied Manhattan Project. These four of course are only a few of the emigree scientists that worked on the Manhattan Project. Hitler and the NAZIs are known for their his massive rearmament which lead to World War II. Amazingly in this critical area, Hitler essentially conducted a unilateral disarmament effort. Not only did he disarm Germnan physics, but he armed American physics for both World War Ii ahdthe Cold War. This is just whay Max Planck warned him would happen. This is not just a matter of the substantial number of emigree physicits, but the much larger number of Amnerican physicists that theytaytaught and mentored, just as Heisenberg played a role in developing many of the Manhattan Project scientists.

Gian Carlo Wick (Italy, 1909-92)

Gian Carlo Wick was born in Turin (1909). He came from a highly educated family. His father was a chemical engineer. His mother, Barbara Allason (1877–1968), was a popular Italian author and anti-Fascist. His paternal grandfather had emigrated from Switzerland to Italy. His grandmother came from Austria. He earned his degree in Turin studying under G. Wataghin (1930). He did his thesis on the electronic theory of metals. He then went to Göttingen and Leipzig to study physics. There he worked under Werner Heisenberg. Heisenberg liked him, in part because they shared an interest in classical music. Heisenberg would weekly invited Wick as well as other students to his home for talk and and ping-pong. He returned to Italy. He where he becae an assistahnt to Enrico Fermi in Rome (1932). While working with the Fermi group, Wick calculated the magnetic moment of the hydrogen molecule with group-theoretical methods. He extended Fermi's theory of beta decay to positron emission and K-capture, and explained the relationship between the range of a force and the mass of its force carrier particle. He also worked on slowing down of neutrons in matter, and joined a group of Italian physicists led by Gilberto Bernardini which made the first measurement of the lifetime of the muon. He was appointed professor of theoretical physics in Palermo (1937). He then worked in Padua. Then with the advent of World war II he returned to Rome and became chair of theoretical physics (1940). He was at the time with the departure of Fermi, Italy's top theoretical physicist. As far as we know, the Germans made no effort tgo recruit him or other Italian pysicists to work on their atomic program. Presumably it was considered a security risk to involve foreigners. We do not note if Heisenberg made any effortto dio so. Afterthe War, he followed Fermi to the United States (1946). While in America, He made important contributions to quantum field theory. The Wick rotation, Wick contraction, Wick's theorem, and the Wick product are all named after him.

Felix Bloch (Switzerland, 1905-83)

Felix Bloch Bloch was born in Zürich, Switzerland (1905). His Jewish parents were Gustav and Agnes Bloch. He grew up in Switzerland was educated there and was educated at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich. He began studying engineering, but quickly changed to physics. He was influenced by lectures and seminars given by Peter Debye and Hermann Weyl at ETH Zürich and Erwin Schrödinger at the neighboring University of Zürich. He befriended another student, John von Neumann. Hegraduated (1927). He continued his physics studies in Germany at the University of Leipzig working with with Werner Heisenberg. He earned his doctorate (1928). His doctoral thesis established the quantum theory of solids, using Bloch waves to describe the electrons. He became active in European academia, studying with Wolfgang Pauli in Zürich, Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and Enrico Fermi in Rome before returning to the Uiversity of Leipzig. He was awarded a position as privatdozent (lecturer). After Hitler seized power, \he lft Germany (1933). And vbecause positionswre limited in Switzerland, he emigrated to the United States. He was awarded a position at Stanford University (1934). He began working with the University of California at Berkeley which had a 37" cyclotron (1938). He was trying to to determine the magnetic moment of the neutron. Bloch went on to become the first professor for theoretical physics at Stanford. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States (1939). .After the United States decided to build an atomic bomb, he was recruited for the Manhattan Project. He was part of the Los Alamos team. He then transferred to the radar project at Harvard University.

Victor Weisskopf (Austria, 1908-2002)

Victor Frederick Weisskopf (September 19, 1908 – April 22, 2002) was an Austrian-born Jew. Hisnicknamne was 'Viki'. He was born in Vienna and grew up there. His nicknamne was 'Viki'. He earned his doctorate in physics at the University of Göttingen in Germany (1931). He did postdoctoral work under Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, Wolfgang Pauli, and Niels Bohr.His academic brilliance led to collaboration with the great physicists just beginning to explore the atom. This included Niels Bohr, who mentored Weisskopf at his institute in Copenhagen and he emerged as an important theoretical physicist. After the NAZI take over (1933), Weiss kopf attempted to remain in Germany and continue his work. He began to work on quantum theory. His specialty became Quantum Electrodynamics. He finally saw that as a Jew that there was no future for him in Germany and was dangerous even to remain in Germany. Like other recognized scientists, it was possible to find refuge. Bohr helped him find an academic position in the United Srates. He was a Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester (1937-43).After the American decision to build an atomic bomb, he was recruited for the Manhattan Project and worked at Los Alamos (1943-45). After the War, Weisskopf After World War II, Weisskopf joined the physics faculty at the Massachusettes Institute of Technology (MIT). This is one of the premier institutions in America working with physics. He became head of the department. He became a strong voice against nuclear proliferation.

Fritz Sauter (Austria, 1906-83)

Fritz Eduard Josef Maria Sauter was an Austrian-German physicist. He was born and raised in Austria. Until he was 12 years old, Austria it was the center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a major European power. After the war it was reduced to a small Alpine republic (1918). Sauter studied mathematics and physics at the Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck (1924-28). He received his doctorate studying under Arthur March (1928). He did his thesis on Kirchoff’s theory of diffraction. After graduation he went to Germany to do postdoctoral studies with Arnold Sommerfeld and was his assistant at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich. Sommerfeld recommended Sauter to Max Born, director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the Georg-August University of Göttingen (January 1931). Sauter worked as an assistant to Richard Becker at the Technische Hochschule Berlin in Charlottenburg (1931-34). He began to lecture in Berlin (1933). While in Berlin, he worked on atomic physics and Dirac’s theory of electrons. He focused on quantum electrodynamics and solid-state physics. This of course that Hitler and the NAZIs seized power. Max Born who was Jewish was forced to take leave as the director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the Georg-August University of Göttingen (July 1933). He sought refuge in Britain. Sauter while only a Privatdozent, was appointed acting director. Born was officially terminated under the Nuremberg Laws (December 1935). Sauter continued as acting director (until 1936). At this time Richard Becker was appointed director. Delays resulted by efforts by the proponents of Dutsche Physik to block the careers of candidates who accepted Einstein's relativity theories. At the same time the ichserziehungsministerium (Reich Education Ministry--REM) eliminated Becjker's position in Berlin and reassigned him to Göttingen University permanently. Sauter had worked under Becker in Berlin. . Sauter after Becker arrived as director, accepted a teaching assignment and became acting director of the theoretical physics department at the University of Königsberg in East Prussia. He was appointed ordinarius professor of theoretical physics and director of the theoretical physics department at Königsberg (1939). He spent the first hald the War there and then was appointed ordinarius professor of theoretical physics at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich (1942-45). As far as we can tell, he played no role in the German atomic program, an indication of the German'slack of focus on building a bomb. After the War there were restrictions on the type of research conducted in Germany.

George Placzek (Czechoslovakia, 1905-55)

Georg Placzek was born in Brno, Moravia, at the time part of the Czech Lands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1905). His parents were Jewish. He studied physics in Prague and Vienna. He worked with Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, Rudolf Peierls, Werner Heisenberg, Victor Weisskopf, Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, Lev Landau, Edoardo Amaldi, Emilio Segrè, Leon van Hove and many other prominent physicists during the inter-War era. His wife, Els Placzek (née Andriesse) was an ex-wife of physicist Hans von Halban. Placzek's areas of concentration was a fundamental theory of Raman scattering, molecular spectroscopy in gases and liquids, neutron physics and mathematical physics. Working with Otto Frisch, he suggested a direct experimental proof of nuclear fission. Working with Niels Bohr and others, he was helped to better understand the potential role of Uranium 235 in the creation of a nuclear chain reaction. Hitler's Rise power closed German univerities to Placzek, even making it difficulr\t to travel through Germany. The Soviet Union attracted him for atime with its staunch anti-NAZI stance. He worked for a time in Landau's circle at Kharkov in the Soviet Union (1937). It is at this time Placzek witnessed the brutality of Stalin's Soviet Union. Leftist propaganda in the West had painted a very different picture. He would later relay his experiences to among others Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller with who he developed a close friendship. Placzek worked at Bohr's Instutute in Copenhagen ahnd oublisghed several important papers. His native Czechoslovakia was deserted by the British and French at Munichb (September 1939). It was cklear what was coming. Bohr decided to move part of his Copenhagen Institute to the safety of the United States. Placzek left Copenhagen for the United States (January 1939). He met Bohr at Princeton (February 1939). Placzek was the only Czech with a major position in the Manhattan project (1943-46). He was a as a member of the British Mission. First he worked in Canada as the leader of a theoretical division at the Montreal Laboratory. He subsequently transferred to Los Alamos (May 1945). There he replaced his friend Hans Bethe as the leader of the theoretical group. After the War Placzek was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey (1948).

Rudolf Peierls (Germany, 1907-95)

Sir Rudolf Ernst Peierls, CBE was born in Berlin (1907). He was the son of assimilated Jewish parents. Peierls studied solid-state physics in Zurich under the guidance of Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli (1929). His early work on quantum physics led to the theory of positive carriers to explain the thermal and electrical conductivity behaviors of semiconductors. He pioneered the concept of 'holes' in semiconductors. He actually established 'zones' before Léon Brillouin. despite Brillouin's name being currently attached to the idea and applied it to phonons. Peierls proceeded to discover what is now called the Boltzmann equations for phonons and the Umklapp process. He also assisted Egon Orowan in understanding the force required to move a dislocation which would be expanded on by Frank Nabarro and called the Peierls–Nabarro force. Peierls was studying on a Rockefeller Scholarship at Cambridge University when Adolf Hitler and the NAZIs seized power in Germany. British authories allowed him to remain in Britain. he worked at Manchester under a special und set up for refugees. He worked with Hans Bethe on photodisintegration and the statistical mechanics of alloys under the aegis of James Chadwick. The results they achieved still serve today as the basis for mean-field theories of structural phase changes in complete alloys. Next he moved back to Cambridge, he worked with P.G.L. Kapur at the Mond Laboratory on superconductivity and liquid helium. The group computed the dispersion formula for nuclear reactions originally given in perturbation theory by Gregory Breit and Eugene Wigner, but now included generalizing conditions. Their work is now recognized as the Kapur–Peierls derivation. He was appointed Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Birmingham (1937). By this time it was clear that Europe was headed for another war. Incredibly, he began working on atomic energy because it was considered aelatively low priority, non-military field. He worked with Otto Robert Frisch and James Chadwick. Both Peierls and Frisch as German citizeswere denied the security clearances needed to work on radar (RDF). A few months after Hitler began the War, Frisch and Peierls published what has become known as the Frisch-Peierls memorandum (March 1940). It was a very shortv paper, but it laid out for the first time. how an atomic bomb could be constructed from a small amount of fissionable uranium-235. In 2 months the Germans who had publisged works on fission would be in possession of the largest stocks of uranium, adding Belgian stocks to the Uranium they acquired from Czechoslovakia. Peierls and Frisch calculated that about 1 kg would be needed. Until then it had been believed assumed that a bomb would require several tons of uranium. German researchers continued to believe the pre-War assessmets. (We do not know if the Germans ever learned of their work.) The Peierls and Frisch paper was critical in attracing the interest of British authorities. The British, however, did not have the economic and industrial capacity for such an enormous project. Their findings reached the attention of American authorities who had already been aklerted by Albert Einstein to the dangers of a German atomic bomb. Their findings werepart of the Maud Committee. This led directly to the Manhattan Project. Peierls was responsible for the recruituing another German refu\gee, Klaus Fuchs to the British project. After the War, Peierls came under suspicion when Fuchs was exposed as a Soviet spy (1950). After thesigning of the Quebec Agreement (August 1943), the American and British atomic programswere merged. Peierls joined the Manhattan Project. Peierls and Fuchs were was part of the British team. Peierls initially worked in New York, but eventually moved to Los Alamos Laboratory. It was Peierls who assembled the Little Boy nuclear bomb by hand. While he played a major role in Britain's World war nuclear program, his role in modern sciences goes far beyound the Manhattan Project.


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