Jewish Nobel Prize Winners Part II: Physics

Fact Paper 44-II

© Samuel Kurinsky, all rights reserved

CLAUDE COHEN-TANNOUDJI, winner of the year 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics. From Albert Abraham Michelson in 1907, to Zhores I. Alferov in 2000, there were an astounding 37 Jewish winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics alone. The family Cohen-Tannoudji (literally: Cohens from Tangiers) escaped the Inquisition in the 16th century by fleeing eastward to Tunisia and then to Algeria. The American liberation of Algeria in November, 1942 “saved us from the nazi persecutions.” There were no less than 12 Jewish winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics who fled the Nazi scourge and survived to earn the honor. A thirteenth, Georges Charpak, the 1992 winner, was imprisoned by the Vichy government, deported to Dachau and was liberated in 1945. How many potential Jewish prize winners were lost to posterity in the Holocaust?
Photograph courtesy of Nobel e-Museum,

Emigres from Fascism

It is remarkable how many of the world's most illustrious scientists Nazi Europe lost to insidious racism. Aside from those who were slaughtered or incinerated, there were among the hundreds of brilliant innovators no less than 12 Nobel Prize winners in Physics who escaped Nazi brutality! The distinguished roster includes Albert Einstein, Niehls Bohr, James Franck, Otto Stern, Felix Bloch, Max Born, Eugene Wigner, Hans Bethe, Dennis Gabor, Aro Penzias, Jack Steinberger, and Zhores I Alferov

The exodus of Europe's top scientists recalls the similar "brain-drain" from Iberia as a result of the Inquisition's "convert or be expelled" policy. The Ottoman Sultan Beyezid II (1481-1512) expressed his astonishment at the stupidity of the Spaniards in expelling their greatest scholars and most skilled artisans, thus impoverishing their kingdoms while enriching his. The expulsion of the Jews from Iberia was indeed a windfall for the Ottoman Empire. The Sephardim who specialized in munitions founded factories on the Bosporus that produced the sophisticated artillery which enabled the Ottomans to expand their empire.

Nicolas de Nicolay, who accompanied the French ambassador to Turkey in 1551, was astounded at the abysmal Spanish stupidity: "The excellent workers in crafts and manufacturers among the newly arrived Spanish and Portuguese refugees... to the great detriment and damage of Christianity, have conveyed to the Turks many inventions, arts and machines of war, namely, how to produce artillery, guns, gunpowder, cannon balls and other weapons."1

History does repeat itself! The Allies incurred a major debt to Jewish emigres for their military successes, as did the Ottomans earlier. The Manhattan Project alone owes its existence to the core of scientists who were responsible for the land-mark achievements in atomic energy, both for military and peaceful purposes. Almost all were emigre Jews, and many were Nobel Prize winners.

Jewish Nobel Prize Winners in Physics

ALBERT ABRAHAM MICHELSON (1852-1831), became in 1907 the first of an astounding total of 37 Jewish winners of the Nobel Prize for Physics "for his optical precision instruments and the spectroscopic and meteorological investigations carried out with their aid."

Albert was born on December 19, 1852 in Streino, Prussia (today Strzelno, Poland) to Samuel Michelson and Rozalia, daughter of Abraham Przylubsky from Iwowroclaw. His nurturing years were hardly Prussian or Polish in nature but thoroughly Pioneer-American.

Albert's father, Samuel Michelson, was a Jewish merchant at time when pogroms were rampant in the region. The family fled with two-year-old Albert from Polish purges to American freedom, ending up in Nevada's bustling mining camps. Samuel established a prosperous supply business to gold miners at the camps.

"Albert's fourth birthday was celebrated in Murphy's Camp, Calvaras County... a place where five million dollar's worth of gold dust was taken from one four acre lot." When the lode was depleted at the camp the Michelsons relocated near the fabulous Comstock lode at Virginia City. "Albert went to high school in San Francisco. In 1869, his father spotted an announcement in the local paper that Congressman Fitch would be appointing a candidate to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, and inviting applicants." Albert applied but the appointment went to the son of a civil war veteran. "However, Albert knew that President Grant would also be appointing ten candidates himself, so he went east on the just opened continental railroad to try his luck. Unknown to Michelson, Congressman Fitch wrote directly to Grant on his behalf, saying this would really help get the Nevada Jews into the Republican Party."2 Despite the fact that all ten awards had already been assigned, Grant, renowned for rabid anti-Semitism, was nonetheless pragmatically persuaded to add Michelson to the Academy's roster.

It was a fortunate move for American Naval technology and for science. Among the optical devices Michelson invented for Naval use was an accurate rangefinder. For the International Committee of Weights and Measures Michelson measured the standard meter in terms of wavelength of cadmium light. He invented the echelon spectroscope. In 1887, together with his colleague, Edward Morley, he conducted experiments that showed "there was no significant motion of the earth relative to the ether, the hypothetical medium in which light waves were supposed to travel. The result became the foundation of Einstein's theory of relativity."3

Michelson increased a telescope's resolving power, and was the first to measure the diameter of stars.

GABRIELL LIPPMANN (1845-1921) won the 1908 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his method of reproducing colors photographically, based on the phenomenon of interference."

Lippman was born of French parents in Hollerich, Luxemberg. "The Jewish scientist Gabriel Lippmann won a Nobel Prize in 1908 for the first practical system of color photography. The next photographic prize was granted in 1971, when the Jew, Dennis Gabor [see below], won the coveted prize for his invention of holography"4

Lippmann was Marie Curie's thesis advisor, letting Marie use his laboratory for the purpose. He was "a giant of his day in the world of classical physics - a multi-talented researcher... His textbook on thermodynamics was the standard reference in France. He invented the capillary electrometer...used in early electrocardiographs."5 His research in piezoelectricity and seismology, his invention of the coelostat, a new astronomical tool that compensated for the earth's rotation and allowed a portion of the sky to be photographed without apparent movement.

"[Lippmann] was also responsible for many more ingenious devices and improvements to standard instruments to the benefit of many branches of Physics."6

ALBERT EINSTEIN won the 1921 Nobel Prize for "for his services to theoretical physics and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect."

Einstein ranks as one of the greatest conceptual revisors of man's understanding of the universe. His fundamental scientific break-throughs are thoroughly chronicled, so this paper will restrict itself to a mention of his lesser known works. These include a study on the meanderings of rivers and (in collaboration with a fellow-emigre, Dr. Gustav Bucky), a major contribution to photo-graphy, of the light-intensity self-adjustment camera.4

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, the first child of the Jewish couple Hermann and Pauline Einstein (née Koch). Einstein launched some of his most remarkable work in his spare time while a technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office, a post he obtained in 1901. In 1905, in addition to his doctoral thesis, Einstein published five pioneering papers in the scientific magazine Annalen der Physik, "which revolutionized physics."7 He rose rapidly through academia at Zurich and Prague to become the Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin in 1914. In 1933 he renounced his German citizenship to take the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton.

Einstein became a leading figure in the World Government Movement after WW II. He declined an offer to assume the presidency of the newly-born State of Israel, and collaborated with Dr. Chaim Weizman on the establishment of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "Among his non-scientific works, About Zionism (1930), Why War (1933), My Philosophy (1934), and Out of My Later Years (1950) are perhaps the most important."6

NIEHLS BOHR won the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services in the investigation of the structure of atoms and of the radiation emanating from them."

Bohr was born in Copenhagen in 1885 to Christian Bohr, an eminent physiologist, and Ellen, née Adler. While a student at Copenhagen University he won a prize for original work on surface tension from the Academy of Sciences in Copenhagen. Subsequently, Bohr delved into theoretical studies, turning out some 115 seminal publications! They led to an understanding of nuclear fission, "and formed the basis of important studies in the field."7

Bohr developed the concept of complementarity, clarifying problems encountered in the quantum theory. In addition to his scientific studies, Bohr concerned himself with the philosophical question of the fundamental affect that changes in the field of physics had upon scientific outlook in a number of essays, now available in English.

Bohr fled to Sweden during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. He spent the last two years of WW II in England and America, where he made a significant contribution to the Atomic Energy Project. Later he devoted himself to the peaceful application of atomic physics, and set out his views for complete openness on the subject in an Open Letter to the United Nations on June 9, 1950.6

JAMES FRANCK was a co-winner of the1925 Nobel Prize in Physics "for their discovery of the laws governing the impact of the electron upon an atom."

Franck was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1882. From 1911 to 1918 Franck lectured on physics at the University of Berlin, "with time out for the war in which he was awarded the Iron Cross."6

After WWI Franck was appointed head of the Physics Division in the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry. "Together with Hertz he investigated the behavior of free electrons upon atoms, work which ultimately led to the proof of some of the basic concepts of Bohr's atomic theory, and for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize... During the period 1920-1933... Franck was closely cooperating with Max Born, who then headed the Institute for Theoretical Physics."6

Franck and family fled Naziism to Baltimore to lecture at Johns Hopkins University. During WWII "Franck served as Director of the Chemistry Division of the Metal-lurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, which was then the center of the Manhattan District's Project."

"Mention should be made of Professor Franck's courage in following what was morally right. He was one of the first who openly demonstrated against the issue of racial laws in Germany, and he resigned from the University of Göttingen in 1933 as a personal protest against the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler. Later, in his second homeland, his moral courage was again evident when in 1945 (two months before Hiroshima) he joined with a group of atomic scientists in preparing the so-called 'Franck Report' to the War Department, urging an open demonstration of the atomic bomb in some uninhabited locality... The report, although failing to obtain its main objective, still stands as a monument to the rejection by scientists of the use of science in works of destruction."6

OTTO STERN won the 1943 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his contribution to the development of the molecular ray method and his discovery of the magnetic moment of the proton."

Stern was born in 1888 in Sorau, Upper Silesia, Germany. His earliest work on thermodynamics and quantum theory led to the publication of important papers. After 1919 he concentrated on experiments that led to the confirmation and clarification of extant and developing theories. His development of the molecular beam method "proved to be a powerful tool for investigation the properties of molecules, atoms and atomic nuclei."6

In 1933 Stern fled to the United States, where he was appointed Research Professor of Physics at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He became professor emeritus in 1945 until his death in 1961.

ISIDOR ISAAC RABI won the 1944 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his resonance method for recording the magnetic properties of atomic nuclei."

Rabi was born in 1898 in Raymanov, Austria. Rabi never had to face Nazi racism, for his family came to the United States in 1899 just after his first birthday. In 1927 Rabi won his doctorate for work on the magnetic properties of crystal. Fellowships made a two-year sojourn in Europe possible, where he was privileged to work under Bohr, Pauli, Stern and Heisenberg.

"In 1940 Rabi was granted leave from Columbia to work as Associate Director of the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the development of radar and the atomic bomb. In 1945 he returned to Columbia as executive officer of the Physics Department. In this capacity he is also concerned with the Brookhaven National Laboratory for atomic Research, Long Island, an organization devoted to research into the peaceful uses of atomic energy... In 1959 [Rabi] was appointed a member of the board of Governors of the Weizman Institute of Science, Rehoveth, Israel..."6

Rabi is on the General Advisory Committee of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the United States National Commission for UNESCO, and the Science Advis-ory Committee of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

FELIX BLOCH was a co-winner of the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physics" for their development of new methods for nuclear magnetic precision instruments and discoveries in connection therewith."

Bloch was born in 1905 in Zurich, Switzerland to Gustav Bloch and Agnes, née Mayer. He received his Ph.D. in 1928 from the University of Leipzig with a dissertation on the quantum mechanics of electrons in crystals and developing the theory of metallic conduction.

"Upon Hitler's ascent to power, Bloch left Germany in the spring of 1933, and a year later he accepted a position which was offered to him at Stanford University." There he was enabled to carry out innovative experimental atomic research. "During the war years Dr. Bloch was also engaged in the early stages of the work on atomic energy at Stanford University and Los Alamos, and later in counter-measures against radar at Harvard University."

"... In 1954, Bloch took a leave of absence to serve for one year as the first Director General of CERN in Geneva."6 Bloch returned to Stanford to new investigations on nuclear magnetism, superconductivity and other phenomena at low temperatures.

MAX BORN won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially for his statistical interpretation of the wave function."

Born was born in Breslau in 1882 to Professor Gustav Born, anatomist and embryologist and Margarite, née Kauffman of a Silesian (Polish) industrialist family.

Born passed through the universities of Breslau, Heidelberg, Zurich and Göttingham where, in 1906, he was awarded the Prize of the Philosophical Faculty. After a short sojourn at Cambridge Born returned to Göttingham. In 1912 Born accepted Michelson's invitation to lecture on relativity in Chicago, where he did noteworthy experiments with the Michelson grating spectograph.

In 1915 Born's appointment as Professor Extraordinarius to assist Max Planck at Berlin University was interrupted by the call to join the scientific office of German Armed Forces. There he worked on the theory of sound ranging, studied the theory of crystals, and published his first book, Dynamics of Crystal Latices.

After the war the University of Frankfurt-on-Main put a laboratory at Born's disposal. Otto Stern (see above) his assistant, won the Nobel Prize with his experiments under Born's wing. Max Born next returned to Göttingham where a great body of works on crystals and quantum mechanics won him the Nobel Prize.

"As were so many other German scientists, [Born] was forced to emigrate in 1933 and was invited to Cambridge... His main sphere of work during this period was the field of nonlinear electrodynamics."6 After a six-month sojourn at the Institute of Science in Bangalore, India, Born worked in Edinburgh until his retirement in 1953.

Despite his postwar absence from Göttingham, Born was made an honorary citizen of that city in 1953.

EMILIO SEGRÈ was a co-winner of the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physics "for their discovery of the antiproton."

Segrè was born in Tivoli, Rome in 1905 to Giuseppe Segrè and Amelia Treves. He earned his Ph.D. under Enrico Fermi, the first to do so under the latter's sponsorship.

Segrè served in the Italian army in 1928-9, after which he entered the University of Rome, received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, worked with Professor Otto Stern (see above) in Hamburg, with Professor Peter Zeeman at Amsterdam, and with Professor Fermi at the University of Rome. In 1936 he was appointed Director of the Physics Laboratory at the University of Palermo.

In 1938 Segrè followed Fermi to America, ending at Berkeley, California. "From 1943 to 1946 he was a group leader in the Los Alamos Laboratory of the Manhattan Project. In 1946 he returned to the University of California at Berkeley as a Professor of Physics."6

" In 1934, [Segrè] started the work in nuclear physics by collaborating with Professor Fermi on neutron research... Later he was interested in radiochemistry and discovered together with Professor Perrier the element technetium, together with Corson and Mackenzie the element astatine, and together with Kennedy, Seaborg, and Wahl, plutonium 239 and its fission properties."6

DONALD A GLASER won the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the invention of the bubble chamber."

Glaser was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1926 to William and Lena Glaser. His doctoral thesis at the California Institute of Technology concerned the momentum of high energy cosmic ray and mesons at sea level. In 1959 Glaser continued his research at Berkeley, delving into the properties of elementary particles, especially the "strange particles." He developed various types of bubble chambers for experiments in high energy physics" besides carrying out experiments on elementary particles at the Cosmotron of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York and the Bevatron of the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in California."6

ROBERT HOFSTADTER, won the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his pioneering studies of electron scattering in atomic nuclei and or his thereby achieved discoveries concerning the structure of the nucleons."

Hofstatder was born in 1915 to Louis Hofstadter and Henrietta Koenigsberg. He graduated Summa cum laude from the College of the City of New York and received his Ph. D. from Princeton University. A postdoctoral Fellowship led to a study of photoconductivity of willemite crystals and host of other crystal processes.

In 1939, another Fellowship involved him in the construction of a large Van de Graff machine for nuclear

research. During WW II Hofstadter worked at first at the National Bureau of Standards, and then at the Norden Laboratory Corporation, returning to Princeton to continue his revelatory work on crystal properties.

Hofstadter left Princeton for Stanford to initiate a new program for a forthcoming linear accelerator. "Many of the principal results on the proton and neutron were obtained in the years 1954-1957... The work is still in progress."6

LEV DAVIDOVIC LANDAU won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his pioneering theories for condensed matter, especially liquid helium."

Landau was born in 1908, son of an engineer and a physician. "After graduating from the Physical Department of Leningrad University at the age of 19, he began his scientific career at the Leningrad Physico-Technical Insti-tute. The years 1929- 1933 he spent abroad, partly as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, working in Germany, Switz-erland, England, and in Copenhagen under Niehls Bohr."6

The inspiration engendered by his experiences abroad was applied creatively during his tenure from 1932-1937 as head of the Theoretical Department of the Ukrainian Physico-Technical Institute at Kharkov, and after 1937 as head of the Theoretical Department of the Institute for Physical Problems of the Academy of Sciences in Moscow. He was repeatedly awarded the USSR State Prize, and in 1962 won, jointly with another Jewish scientist, E.M. Lifshitz, the Lenin Science Prize.

"Landau's work covers all branches of theoretical physics, ranging from fluid mechanics to quantum field theory."6

EUGENE PAUL WIGNER won the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles."6

Wigner was born in 1902 in Budapest, Hungary . Shortly after receiving a Dr. Ing. degree at the Technische Hochschule, Berlin, Wigner fled Europe to the U. S. A. From 1938 to 1971 he pursued a fruitful career as Professor of Mathematical Physics at Princeton University.

During WWII, from 1942-1945, Wigner joined the bevy of other distinguished Jewish scientists at the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago. In 1946-1947 Wigner became Director of Research and Development at Clinton Laboratories. The list of his awards would take up no less than the entire ten inches of this column. They range from the U. S. Medal for Merit and the Enrico Fermi Prize to the Atoms for Peace prize. They include a number of Hungarian awards and extend to honorary doctorates granted by nineteen universities in seven countries from as divers institutions as the Yeshiva and Catholic Universities.

Wigner was on the General Advisory Committee to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission from 1952-1957, was reappointed in 1959, and served on it until 1964.6

JULIAN SCHWINGER was a co-winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics (see Feynman below) "for their fundamental work in quantum thermodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles."

Schwinger was born in 1918 in New York City. He exhibited his genius for physics by debuting with a publication on the subject at the age of sixteen. He raced through the public school system of New York City, came to the attention of I. I. Rabi (see above) at Columbia University, where he obtained a Ph.D. in 1939. Schwinger passed the next two years as a National Research Fellow at Berkeley, and then as assistant to J. R. Oppenheimer..

Schwinger worked as a loner, perhaps as a result of his being so far ahead of his contemporaries in his early student years. During the war years he became the sole night research staff at the Radiation Laboratory of MIT. After the war he accepted an appointment at Harvard University. Schwinger did innovative theoretical work in the physics of nuclear particles, culminating in the invention of a source theory which provides a general approach to all physical phenomena.6

RICHARD P. FEYNMAN was a co-winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics" (see Schwinger above) for their fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles."6

Feynman was born in New York City in 1918. His collegiate studies began at MIT, then received his Ph.D. Princeton where he became a Research Assistant.

From 1945-1950 he assumed the position of a Professor of Theoretical Physics at Cornell University, and thereafter under the same title at the California Institute of Technology to 1959, and continues to the present with the same title at the California Institute of Technology.6

HANS BETHE won the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his contributions to the theory of nuclear reactions, especial-ly his discoveries concerning the energy production in stars."

Bethe was born in 1906 in Strassbourg. He studied at the Universities of Frankfurt and Munich, where he became privatdozent in 1930. Bethe passed to Cambridge in 1930, to Rome in 1931 and to the University of Tubingen.

Bethe fled Nazism to England in 1933. In 1935 he was appointed Assistant Professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. was promoted to Professor in 1937, and has been at Cornell ever since. There was a hiatus in his professorial duties at Corning when war work took him first to the Radiation Laboratory at MIT and then to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory where he was engaged in assembling the first atom bomb.

"Bethe's main work is concerned with the theory of atomic nuclei... summarized in three articles in the Reviews of Modern Physics which for many years served as a textbook for nuclear physicists... In 1947, Bethe was the first to explain the Lamb-shift in the hydrogen spectrum, and thus laid the foundation for the modern development of quantum electrodynamics."6

MURRAY GELL-MANN won the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his contributions and discoveries concerning the classification of elementary particles and their interactions."

Gell-Mann was born in 1929 in New York City. He attained a Ph.D. in 1951 at MIT. In 1952 he became a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, entered the faculty of the University of Chicago where in 1954 he was appointed Associate Professor on dispersion relations.

Gell-Mann's esoteric work in theoretical physics include the strangeness theory, the eightfold theory, and work in the theory of weak reactions.6

DENNIS GABOR won the 1971 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention and development of the holographic method."

"I was born in Budapest, Hungary, the oldest son of Bertalan Gabor... and his wife Adrienne... My doctorate work was the development of one of the first high-speed cathode ray oscillographs and in the course of this I made the first iron-shrouded magnetic electron lens. In 1927 I joined the Siemens and Halske AG where I made the first of my successful inventions: the high pressure quartz mercury lamp... since used in millions of street lamps."

"... In 1933, when Hitler came to power, I left Germany and after a short period in Hungary went to England... The years after the war were the most fruitful... With young doctorands as collaborators, we made a Wilson cloud chamber...a holographic microscope, a new electron-velocity spectroscope, an analogue computer which was universal. Non-lineal "learning" predictor... a flat thin colour television tube, and a new type of thermionic converter."

"...Ever since 1958 I have spent much time on a new interest; the future of our industrial civilization. I became more and more convinced that a serious mismatch has developed between technology and our social institutions... This conviction has found expression in three books, Inventing the Future, 1963, Innovations, 1970, and The Mature Society, 1972."6

BRIAN D. JOSEPHSON won the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his theoretical predictions of the connection between collective motion and particle motion in atomic nuclei and the development of the theory of the structure of the atomic nucleus based on this connection."

Josephson was born in 1940 in Cardiff, Wales. Most of his academic life was passed at Cambridge, except for a sojourn at Cornell and as a Visiting Professor at various universities throughout the world. Josephson's contribution to nuclear physics is substantial, but he seems more intrigued with esoteric paranormal studies as Director of the Mind-Matter Unification Project, which he characterizes "as intelligent processes in nature associated with brain function or with some other natural process..."9

Josephson theorizes that telepathy might be explicable on the basis of quantum theory.

BEN A. MOTTELSON won the 1975 Prize in Physics "for the discovery of the connection between collective motion and par-ticle motion in atomic nuclei and the development of the theory of the structure of the atomic nucleus based on this connection."

"I was born in Chicago Illinois on July 9, 1926, the second of three children of Goodman Mottelson and Georgia Mottelson (née Blum)... My graduate studies were at Harvard University and my PhD work on a problem in nuclear physics was directed by Julius Schwinger [see above]... Receiving a Sheldon Fellowship from Harvard University I chose to spend the year (1950-1951) at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen (later the Niehls Bohr Institute)... A fellowship from the U. S. Atomic Commission permitted me to continue my work in Copenhagen for two more years after which I held a research position in CERN... With the founding of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Atomic Physics in Copenhagen (1957) I received a position as professor which I have held ever since."8

BURTON RICHTER was a co-winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics "for their pioneering work in the discovery of a heavy elementary particle of a new type."

"I was born on March 22, 1931 in New York, the eldest child of Abraham and Fannie Richter. In 1948 I entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology... I arranged to spend six months at the Brookhaven National Laboratory's 3-Gev proton accelerator to see if particle physics was really what I wanted to do. It was, and I returned to the MIT synchroton laboratory."

"... I sought a job at Stanford's High-Energy Physics Laboratory. My first experiment there... established that quantum electrodynamics was correct to distances as small as about 10-13 cm."

Dr. Richter was part of a team that built the first colliding beam device. "This device was the ancestor of all the colliding beam storage rings to follow." In 1973 experiments began on a large magnetic detector... "and the results were all that I had hoped for." They earned Dr. Richter the Nobel Prize.

Dr. Richter continued research with a sabbatical year at CERN in Geneva and returned to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center to participate in turning the two-mile-long SLAC linac into a linear collider... In 1984, Richter became the Director of SLAC. "It is much easier," he wrote, "to do physics when someone else gets the funds than it is to get the funds for others to do the research."10

ARNO PENZIAS was a co-winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics "for their discovery of cosmic wave background radiation."

"I was born in Munich, Germany in 1933. I spent the first six years of my life comfortably, as an adored child in a closely-knit middle-class family. Even when my family was rounded up for deportation to Poland it did not occur to me that anything would happen to us... I began to realize that there were bad things that my parents could not control, something to do with being Jewish."

"One night, shortly after my sixth birthday, my parents put their two boys on a train for England..." Penzias' parents followed, and the family ended up in America and Penzias went to the free City College of New York. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Penzias parlayed his army training into a research assistantship in the Columbia Radiation Laboratory. "I was given the task of building a Maser amplifier in a radioastronomy experiment of my own choosing..."

"In 1961 I went in search of a temporary job at Bell Laboratories... [I] have remained there ever since."

Bell's support enabled Penzias to continue his astronomical researches. Bumped up to administrative posts in the company, his research became curtailed. "Except for two or three papers on interstellar isotopes, my tenure as Bell Labs Vice-President of Research brought my personal research in astrophysics to an end."12

PYOTR LEONIDIVICH KAPITSA won the 1978 Nobel Prize winner "for his basic inventions and discoveries in the area of low-temperature physics.

Kapitsa was born in 1894 in Kronstadt, near Leningrad, the son of a military engineer and a researcher in folklore. Kapitsa completed his studies at the Polytchnical Institute in 1918. In 1921 he came to the Cavendish

Laboratory to work with Rutherford. " In 1923 he made the first experiment in which a cloud chamber was placed in a strong magnetic field, and observed the bending of alfa-particle paths. In 1924 he developed methods for obtaining very strong magnetic fields...In 1928 he discovered the dependence of resistivity on magnetic fields for various metals... In his last years at Cambridge Kapitsa turned to low temperature research."

Kapitsa returned to Russia in 1934, and he organized the Institute for Physical Problems, where he "continued his research on strong magnetic fields, low temperature physics and cryogenics."12

STEVEN WEINBERG was a co-winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics "for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including inter alia the prediction of the weak neutral current."

"I was born in 1933 New York to Frederick and Eva Weinberg." Weinberg was privileged to pursue graduate studies at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen, (now the Niehls Bohr Institute). After receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1967, "I worked at Columbia and then from 1959 to 1966 at Berkeley... My active interest in astrophysics dates from 1961-62."

"... From 1966 to 1969, on leave from Berkeley, I was Loeb Lecturer at Harvard and the visiting professor at M.I.T. .. It was while I was a visitor to M.I.T. in 1967 that my work... turned in the direction of the unification of weak and electromagnetic interactions. In 1973, when Julius Schwinger [see above], left Harvard, I was offered and accepted his chair there as Higgins Professor of Physics together with an appointment as Senior Scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory."11

SHELDON L. GLASHOW was a co-winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics "for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including inter alia the prediction of the weak neutral current."

"My parents, Lewis Glashow and Bella née Rubin immigrated to New York City from Bobruisk in the early years of this century. Here they found the freedom and opportunity denied Jews in Czarist Russia... While my parents never had the time or money to secure university education themselves, they were adamant that their children should. In comfort and in love, we were taught the joys of knowledge and of work well done. I only regret that neither my mother nor my father could live to see the day when I would accept the Nobel Prize."

"Among my chums at the Bronx High School of Science were Gary Feinberg and Steven Weinberg [see above]..." Glashow crossed paths with Weinberg again at Cornell, and passed on to graduate school at Harvard where this thesis advisor became Julius Schwinger [see above]. A fellowship spent at Copenhagen at the Niehls Bohr Institute was followed by several years at Stanford, at Berkeley, and finally at Harvard where he became the Higgins Professor of Physics.

Glashow summarizes his creative work at these institutions by noting that "The wild ideas of yesterday quickly become today's dogma."13

JACK STEINBERGER, was one of three Jewish co-winners of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino."

"I was born in Bad Kissingen (Franconia) in 1921. [My father] was one of twelve children of a rural "Vienhandler" (small-time cattle dealer). Since the age of eighteen he had been cantor and religious teacher for the Jewish community, a job he still held when he emigrated in 1938... My mother was born in Nuremberg to a hop merchant... Unusual for her time, she had the benefit of a college education and supplemented the meager income with English and French lessons."

"... I remember Nazi election propaganda posters showing a hateful Jewish face with a crooked nose, and the inscription 'Die Juden sind unser Umgluck...' When in 1934 the American Jewish charities offered to find homes for 300 German refugee children, my father applied for my older brother and myself.... The reunited family settled down in Chicago."

"... After Germany surrendered in 1945 I spent several months on active duty in the army." Steinberger pursued his innovative research at the universities of Chicago, Princeton and Berkeley. "I survived only a year in Berkeley, partly because I declined to sign the anticommunist loyalty oath, and moved to Columbia University in the summer of 1950."

In 1964 Steinberger took a Sabbatical leave at CERN, and in 1968 joined CERN where his activity continues.14

MELVIN SCHWARTZ was another of the three Jewish co-winners of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino."

"Having been born in 1932, at the peak of the great depression, I grew up in difficult times. My parents worked extraordinarily hard to give us economic stability..."

Schwartz states that his years at the Bronx High School of Science in New York "were among the most exciting and stimulating of my life." He went on to the Columbia Physics Department, "at that time unmatched by any in the world. Largely a product of the late I.I. Rabi [see above] it was the department which was to provide the ambience for six Nobel Prize pieces of work in diverse fields during the next thirteen years." After 17 years at Columbia, Schwartz moved West to Stanford, and eventually left academia to become the Executive Officer of Digital Pathways, Inc."14

LEON M. LEDERMAN was another of three Jewish co-winners of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino."

"I was born in New York City on July 15 922 of immigrant parents. My father, Morris, operated a hand laundry and venerated learning...[I] received my Ph. D at Columbia University. I graduated in 1943 and proceeded promptly to spend three years in the U. S. Army where I rose to the rank of 2nd lieutenant in the Signal Corps. In September of 1946 I entered the Graduate School of Physics at Columbia, chaired by I.I. Rabi [see above]."14

JEROME I. FRIEDMAN was a co-winner ofthe1990 Nobel Prize in Physics "for their pioneering investigations concerning deep inelastic scatterings of electrons on protons and bound neutrons, which have been of essential importance for the development of the quark model in particle physics."

"I was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 28, 1930, the second of two children of Selig and Lilian Friedman, nee Warsaw, who were immigrants from Russia. My father came to the United States in 1913 and later served in the U. S. Army Artillery Corps in World War I... My mother arrived in the United States in 1914 on one of the last voyages of the Lusitania.... My father was an avid reader, having interests in science and history, and our home was filled with books. My mother, who had a lovely singing voice, loved music, and in particular, opera. The education of my brother and myself were of primary importance to my parents...they were prepared to make any sacrifice to further our intellectual development. [I] sought admission to the University of Chicago because Enrico Fermi taught there. I was fortunate to have been accepted with full scholarship."

"[I] had the great privilege of being supervised by Fermi, and I can remember being overwhelmed with a sense of my good fortune to work for this great man... In 1957 I joined Hofstadter's [see above] group at the High Energy Physics Laboratory at Stanford University.".

Friedman's innovative work in these stimulating environments led to his appointment to the faculty of M.I.T., to research at CERN, to further collaborative work with physicists at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and again with Fermilab. In 1980 Friedman became the Director of the Laboratory for Nuclear Physics at M.I.T. and head of its Physics Department from 1983 to 1988.15

GEORGES CHARPAK won the 1992 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his invention and development of particle detectors, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber."

Charles Charpak was born in Poland in 1924. "Charpak's family moved to Paris when he was seven years old. During WW II Charpak served in the resistance and was imprisoned by Vichy authorities. In 1944 he was deported to the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, where he was liberated in 1945. Charpak received a Ph.D. in 1955 from the College de France, Paris, where he worked in the laboratory of Frédéric Joliot-Curie. In 1959 he joined the staff of European Laboratory for Particle Physics at CERN, and in 1984 also became Joliot-Curie professor at the School of Advanced Studies in Physics and Chemistry, Paris."16

In 1968, George Charpak built the first multiwire proportional chamber. Its speed and precision revolution-ized high-energy particle physics. "Various types of particle detectors based on Charpak's original invention have been of decisive importance for many discoveries in particle physics during the last two decades. Several of these have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics."6

FREDERICK REINES won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the detection of the neutrino."

"I was born in Paterson New Jersey on March 16, 1918. The youngest of four children. My parents, Israel and Gussie (Cohen) had met and married in New York City after emigrating to the United States from the same small town in Russia. A paternal relative in Russia, the Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines (1839-1915) was famous for his role in founding the Zionist movement, Mizrachi... [My father] started a silk mill business after the war, and eventually moved to Hillburn, New York, where he ran a general store."

Reines won a scholarship at the Stevens Institute of Technology. ".. The college activity that I engaged in which was to have a long-standing attraction to me was singing in the chorus, where I performed solo roles in major pieces, including Handel's "Messiah... Years later, while working in Los Alamos, I sang solos with the town chorus."

Reines "was recruited as a staff member under Richard Feynman [see above] in the Theoretical Division at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, to work on the Manhattan Project.. I left Los Alamos in 1959 to become Professor and Head of the Department of Physics of the (then) Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio."

Reines brought his research group and his fascination with the elusive neutrino to the new University of California Irvine campus in 1966, where he became the founding Dean of the School of Physical Science, and eventually, in1988, Professor Emeritus.6

MARVIN L. PERL won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the discovery of the tau Lepton."

"About 1900 my parents came to the United States as children from what was then the Polish area of Russia. As Jews, their families left Russia to escape the poverty and the antisemitism. My parents grew up in poor areas of New York City, my father in the East Side district of Manhattan and my mother Fay Rosenthal in the Brownsville district of Brooklyn."

When WWI ensued, too young for the army, Perl joined the Merchant Marine Academy. "The training ship was wonderful - it had a main reciprocating steam engine, and direct steam driven pumps and auxiliary machinery."

Perl was drafted after the war" and spent a pleasant year at an army installation in Washington, D.C. doing very little. Finally I returned to the Polytechnic Institute and received a summa cum laude bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering in 1948... I entered the physics doctoral program in Columbia University in the autumn of 1950... My thesis advisor, I. I. Rabi [see above] [was] crucial to my learning how to do experimental physics.... I learned things more precious than experimental techniques from Rabi."

Perl continued at the University of Michigan. "When the Russians flew the SPUTNIK in 1957, I saw the opportunity, and jointly with my colleague, Lawrence W. Jones... we began our own research program." This led Perl to the discovery of the Tau lepton and the Nobel prize.6

DOUGLAS D. OSHEROFF was a co-winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics "for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3."

"My father was the son of Jewish immigrants who left Russia shortly after the turn of the century, and my mother was the daughter of a Lutheran Minister, whose parents were from what is now Slovakia... My parents had met in New York where my father was a medical intern and my mother was a nurse. At the end of WWII, my parents settled in Aberdeen, a small logging town on the West Coast of Washington State, where doctors were in short supply..."

Osheroff entered Caltech. "It was a good time to be at Caltech, as Feynman {see above] was teaching his famous undergraduate course... I chose to attend Cornell for graduate school. [There] I met Phyllis Liu, a pretty young woman

[and] David Lee [see below] the head of the low temperature laboratory at Cornell... Phyllis and I moved to New Jersey in September 1972; Phyllis to a postdoc position at Princeton University, and I to Bell Laboratories at Murray Hill."

Osheroff left Bell for Stanford where he and his students "continued to work on the superfluid and solid 3He... I have thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of university life, except for having to apply for research support."

It is a complaint common to all scientists!

DAVID M. LEE was a co-winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics, "for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3."

"My parents were born and brought up in New York City. They were the children of Jewish immigrants who had come to the United States from England and Lithuania in the late 1890's."

Lee's early years passed with a fascination with living things, "collecting frogs, fish, salamanders, snakes and worms. .. My other childhood passion was railways. I managed to accumulate an extensive collection of railway timetables covering the entire U.S.A. and became an expert young travel expert... As a young teenager, I became very interested in meteorology. I kept my own weather records and subscribed to the daily weather map issued by the U. S. Weather Bureau.... Following graduation from high school in 1948, I attended Harvard University where I became a physics major."

In 1954, after a 22-month stint in the U. S. Army, Lee entered the University of Connecticut, and passed onto to obtain a Ph. D. at Yale University with which he joined the faculty at Cornell University. At Yale his project was to build a mercury jet stripper for the Heavy ion accelerator. At Cornell he was responsible for setting up a research laboratory in low temperature physics and for the operation of a helium liquifier. Lee also attributes his successes to his wife, "Dana, who was a Ph.D. student in nutrition and biochemistry... Without her loving support my career would certainly have been far less successful."

CLAUDE COHEN-TANNOUDJI won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light."

"I was born on April 1, 1933 in Constantine, Algeria... My family, originally from Tangiers, settled in Tunisia and then in Algeria in the 16th century after having fled Spain during the Inquisition. In fact, our name, Cohen-Tannoudji means simply the Cohen family from Tangiers."

"My parents lived a modest life and their main concern was the education of their children. My father was a self-taught man but had a great intellectual curiosity, not only for biblical and talmudic texts, but also for philosophy, psychoanalysis and history. He passed on to me his taste for studies, for discussion, for debate, and he taught me what I regard as being the fundamental features of the Jewish tradition - studying, learning, and sharing knowledge with others...The arrival of the Americans in Algeria, in November of 1942, saved us from the Nazi persecutions..."

Thus Claude vividly summarizes the dual theme that pervades the biographies of all the Jewish Prize winners: A profound debt to the Jewish tradition of reverence for learning, and the fortuitous escape from tyranny.

Claude was admitted to the Ecole Normale in Paris, an elite school founded during the French Revolution for exceptional students. There he experienced exhilarating experiences with a small group who worked the lab "day and night, even on weekends." Claude was also privileged to be granted two summer months at the famous Les Houches summer school in the Alps, which "offered and intense training in modern physics with about six lectures a day..." The lecturers included outstanding physicists of the day.

With such an inspiring beginning, it is little wonder that Claude soared to academic heights and achievement.

ZHORES I. ALFEROV won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics "for basic work on information and communication technology."

"My parents, Ivan Karpovich, and Anna Vladimirovna, had been Byelorussia born and raised... During World War I [my father] was a brave hussar... a holder of the St. George order. In September 1917, my father joined the Bolshevik party and retained his adherence to socialist and communist principles to the rest of his life."

The Nazi invasion in 1941 forced the family to flee, ending up in Turinsk "as dad had been assigned there to a post of director of a newly-built gunpowder cellulose factory... [Post-war] I attended an all boy's school in the destroyed Minsk city, and was lucky in having an excellent physics teacher... I took his advice to choose... a celebrated Ul'yanov Electrotechnical Institute in Leningrad."

In 1987 Alferov was elected director of that very distinguished Soviet institution. In the interim, he had presented a paper in the U.S.A at the International Conference on Luminescence, participated in seminars at Bell Laboratories, worked six months in the laboratory of semiconductor devices at the University of Illinois, and became the recipient of the USA Franklin's Institute gold medal. On return to the USSR "In 1972, my pupils-colleagues and I were awarded the Lenin's Prize - the highest scientific prize in the USSR."

"Russia will be the great power," Alferov summarizes in his autobiography, "not because of the nuclear potential, not because of faith in God or president, or western investments but thanks to the labor of the nation, faith in Knowledge and Science..."

Alferov's admonishment was intended to apply to all great powers, including the USA.


  1. A. De Nicolay, Les navigations, peregrinations et voyages faits en Turkey, 1577.
  2. The Speed of Light
  3. Science in Poland, Albert A. Michelson
  4. George Gilbert, Jews in Photography.
  5. Gabriel Lippman,
  6. Nobel e-Museum,
  7. Hans-Josef Küpper, Albert Einstein in the World Wide Web
  8. From Les Prix Nobel 1975 and Nobel e-Museum,
  9. Brian Josephson's Home Page at
  10. Les Prix Nobel 1976 and Nobel e-Museum,
  11. Nobel Lectures, Physics 1971-1980 and Nobel e-Museum,
  12. Les Prix Nobel, 1978 and Nobel e-Museum,
  13. Les Prix Nobel, 1979 and Nobel e-Museum,
  14. Nobel Lectures, Physics 1981-1990 and Nobel e-Museum,
  15. Les Prix Nobel, 1990 and Nobel e-Museum,
  16. http:/
  17. Les Prix Nobel, 1996 and Nobel e-Museum,