JEWISH NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS IN PHYSICS
(26% of world total, 38% of US total)JINFO.ORG
Listed below are recipients of the Nobel Prize in physics who were, or are, Jewish (or of half- or three-quarters-Jewish descent, as noted). The percentages given above are those corresponding to only those names that appear explicitly on the list below (i.e., the percentages do not include any of the "others" discussed in the footnotes).
- Albert Michelson #,1 (1907)
- Gabriel Lippmann # (1908)
- Albert Einstein # (1921)
- Niels Bohr #,2 (1922)
- James Franck # (1925)
- Otto Stern # (1943)
- Isidor Rabi # (1944)
- Wolfgang Pauli 3 (1945)
- Felix Bloch # (1952)
- Max Born # (1954)
- Igor Tamm #,4 (1958)
- Ilya Frank 4 (1958)
- Emilio Segrè # (1959)
- Donald Glaser # (1960)
- Robert Hofstadter # (1961)
- Lev Landau # (1962)
- Eugene Wigner 5 (1963)
- Richard Feynman # (1965)
- Julian Schwinger # (1965)
- Hans Bethe #,6 (1967)
- Murray Gell-Mann # (1969)
- Dennis Gabor # (1971)
- Leon Cooper 7 (1972)
- Brian Josephson # (1973)
- Ben Mottelson # (1975)
- Burton Richter # (1976)
- Arno Penzias # (1978)
- Sheldon Glashow # (1979)
- Steven Weinberg # (1979)
- Arthur Schawlow 8 (1981)
- K. Alexander Müller 9 (1987)
- Leon Lederman # (1988)
- Melvin Schwartz # (1988)
- Jack Steinberger # (1988)
- Jerome Friedman # (1990)
- Georges Charpak #,10 (1992)
- Martin Perl #,11 (1995)
- Frederick Reines #,12 (1995)
- David Lee 13 (1996)
- Douglas Osheroff 14 (1996)
- Claude Cohen-Tannoudji 15 (1997)
- Zhores Alferov 16 (2000)
- Vitaly Ginzburg 17 (2003)
- Alexei Abrikosov 18 (2003)
- David Gross 19 (2004)
- H. David Politzer 19 (2004)
- Roy Glauber 20 (2005)
- Saul Perlmutter 21 (2011)
- Adam Riess 22 (2011)
- Serge Haroche 23 (2012)
- François Englert 24 (2013)
- J. Michael Kosterlitz 25 (2016)
- Barry Barish 26 (2017)
- Rainer Weiss 27 (2017)
- Arthur Ashkin 28 (2018)
- Andrea Ghez 29 (2020)
- Others 30
# Encyclopaedia Judaica (1997 CD ROM edition). (This source was listed by the Library Journal as one of its "Top 50 Reference Works of the Millennium.")
1. The claim found elsewhere on the Internet that the mother of Albert Abraham Michelson was not Jewish is untrue. The biographical profile of Michelson written by the Nobel Prize winner Robert A. Millikan in the Biographical Memoirs of the US National Academy of Sciences (National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 1938, Vol. XIX) quotes (on p. 128) Michelson's sister, the novelist Miriam Michelson, as having written of her parents in a letter to Millikan that "both Albert Michelson's father and mother were born of Jewish parents..." The contrary claim seems to have originated in a book titled The Master of Light: A Biography of Albert A. Michelson, by Dorothy Michelson Livingston (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1973). Dorothy Livingston was a daughter born to Michelson's second (non-Jewish) wife when he was already past fifty. Although Livingston admits that she knows almost nothing directly of Michelson's life prior to his second marriage, she states (on p. 12) that "Albert's mother was born Rosalie Przylubska, the second of three daughters of Abraham Przylubski, a Polish businessman from Inowroclaw near Strzelno. The family name and a picture of her mother suggest that she came from typical Polish peasant stock. Her older sister Auguste married a doctor and perhaps it was at their wedding that Rosalie first met Samuel Michelson, a young merchant of Jewish descent..." Note that Livingston does not say "according to my father..." or "according to relatives...," rather she just speculates that the name "Przylubski" is non-Jewish. But the name "Przylubski" is, in fact, found amongst Jews; see, e.g., http://www.avotaynu.com/books/MenkNames.htm. Indeed, Lars Menk's A Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames (Avotaynu, Bergenfield, NJ, 2005) gives (on p. 601) "Inowrazlaw" in East Prussia as a location where, according to the civil records, the name was found amongst Jews.
2. Jewish mother, non-Jewish father.
3. Pauli described himself as being three-quarters Jewish in a letter to the director of the Institute for Advanced Study, Frank Aydelotte, quoted in the April 1995 issue of Physics Today (p. 86). See also http://www.ethbib.ethz.ch/exhibit/pauli/ausreise_e.html. According to the family-authorized biography of Pauli by Charles Enz, No Time to be Brief: A Scientific Biography of Wolfgang Pauli (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 2002, pp. 1-7), three of Pauli's four grandparents (all but his maternal grandmother) were Jewish. Specifically, Pauli's father, Wolfgang Pauli, Sr. (originally Wolf Pascheles, whose parents came from the prominent Jewish Pascheles and Utitz families of Prague), converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism shortly before his marriage in 1899 to Bertha Camilla Schütz. Bertha Schütz was raised in her mother's Roman Catholic religion, but her father was the Jewish writer Friedrich Schütz (whose biography can be found on p. 469 of Vol. 5 of S. Wininger's Grosse Jüdische National-Biographie). Although Pauli was raised as a Roman Catholic, eventually he (and his parents) left the Church.
4. For both Tamm and Frank, see The Encyclopedia of Russian Jewry, Biographies A-I, edited by Herman Branover, Jason Aronson, Northvale, NJ, 1998, pp. 351-352. Frank was half-Jewish on his father's side. (His father's brother was the philosopher Semyon Frank.) On Tamm's Jewish background, the extent of which is unclear, see also the article by the late Harvard Russian Research Center historian of Soviet science Mark Kuchment in the June 1988 issue of Physics Today (p. 82).
5. According to the account given in Wigner's memoirs, both of his parents were Jews, although the family converted to Lutheranism when he was a teenager (See The Recollections of Eugene Wigner, Plenum, New York, NY, 1992).
6. Jewish mother, non-Jewish father.
7. See The Who's Who of Nobel Prize Winners 1901-1995, 3rd Ed. by Bernard S. and June H. Schlessinger, Oryx Press, Phoenix, AZ,1996, p. 209.
8. Jewish father, non-Jewish mother. See section entitled "Background and Education, Toronto" in 1996 interview with Suzanne B. Riess.
9. Jewish mother (née Feigenbaum). Information based on statements made by Prof. Müller during a 2006 visit to Israel to receive an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan University.
10. See the January 1993 issue of Physics Today (p. 20), where Charpak describes his capture by the Nazis while serving in the French Resistance as follows: "Luckily I was only regarded as a Pole and a terrorist. They didn't know that I was a Jew."
11. See first paragraph of autobiography: http://www.nobel.se/physics/laureates/1995/perl-autobio.html.
12. See first paragraph of autobiography: http://www.nobel.se/physics/laureates/1995/reines-autobio.html.
13. See first paragraph of autobiography: http://www.nobel.se/physics/laureates/1996/lee-autobio.html.
14. Jewish father, non-Jewish mother. See first paragraph of autobiography: http://www.nobel.se/physics/laureates/1996/osheroff-autobio.html.
15. See first two paragraphs of autobiography: http://www.nobel.se/physics/laureates/1997/cohen-tannoudji-autobio.html.
16. See The Encyclopedia of Russian Jewry, Biographies A-I, edited by Herman Branover (Jason Aronson, Northvale, NJ, 1998, p. 37). NB: This reference includes biographies of individuals who are both of Jewish and of half-Jewish parentage, but does not generally specify which is, in fact, the case. Based on name analysis alone, Alferov's father, Ivan Karpovich Alferov, was most likely not Jewish; his mother's maiden name was Anna Rosenblum. See also biography in LENTA.RU, the second sentence of which translates as "His parents - Ivan Karpovich and Anna Vladimirovna - a Belorussian and a Jewish woman, themselves came from the small town of Chashniki in Vitebsk Oblast."
17. See, e.g., Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 7 (Keter, Jerusalem, 1972, p. 587) and Section 7 of http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2003/ginzburg-autobio.html.
18. Jewish mother (née Fanya Davidovna Vulf), non-Jewish father; see The Encyclopedia of Russian Jewry, Biographies A-I, edited by Herman Branover (Jason Aronson, Northvale, NJ, 1998, p. 10) and the interview in Candid Science V: Conversations with Famous Scientists, by Balazs Hargittai and István Hargittai (Imperial College Press, London, 2005, p. 185).
19. See 14 October 2004 Jewish Journal.com story by Tom Tugend: "Tugend article on 2004 Nobels."
20. See Encyclopaedia Judaica, Second Edition (Thomson Gale, Detroit, 2007, Vol. 7, p. 635).
21. Son of Profs. Daniel and Felice (Davidson) Perlmutter. Felice Perlmutter was a longtime member of the board of directors of the Philadelphia Jewish Community Relations Council.
22. Son of Dr. Doris Riess and the late Michael Riess. See marriage announcements for their children here and here and the obituary notices for Michael Riess here and here.
23. Brother of author and editor Joël Haroche, who writes under the pen name "Josh Harel." Joël Haroche is the father of singer-songwriter Raphaël Haroche, who was introduced at a 2006 concert in Israel as a "chanteur français et juif" (a French-Jewish singer); see last line of "Raphaël, L'Année du Long Triomphe Même en Israël." According to a genealogy compiled by Jean-Louis Beaucarnot, Haroche "est issu de deux lignées juives, séfarade côté paternel et ashkénaze, côté maternel" (is the product of two Jewish lineages, Sephardic on his father's side and Ashkenazic on his mother's side).
24. As a Jewish child growing up in wartime Belgium, Englert survived the Nazi occupation in hiding; see http://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/vha42758. See also Facts and Mysteries in Elementary Particle Physics, by Martinus Veltman (World Scientific, Singapore and River Edge, NJ, 2003, p. 287). The late Robert Brout, who collaborated with Englert on the prize-winning work, was also Jewish, as are three of the five other physicists who also discovered the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism at about the same time (Gerald Guralnik, Alexander Migdal, and Alexander Polyakov).
25. Son of the British-German-Jewish biochemist Hans Kosterlitz, who pioneered research on endorphins and enkephalins. See Anatomy of a Scientific Discovery, by Jeff Goldberg (Bantam, New York, 1988, pp. 11 and 111). The Kosterlitz-Thouless transition, which was recognized with the award, was also discovered independently by the Russian-Jewish physicist Vadim Berezinskii and is frequently referred to as the Berezinskii-Kosterlitz-Thouless transition.
26. Grandparents, Hyman and Esther Barish and Max and Belle (née Waldman) Shames, were Russian Jewish immigrants who settled in Omaha, Nebraska.
27. Rainer Weiss has stated in interviews and in autobiographical notes that while his father was Jewish, his mother "was a Christian" or "was not Jewish." A "Rainer Weiss," born in Berlin on 29 September 1932 (matching Weiss' place and date of birth exactly) appears in the Index of Jews Whose German Nationality was Annulled by the Nazi Regime. Under the terms of the Nuremberg Laws, this could only have occurred if at least three of Weiss' grandparents were Jews. (None of the exceptions would have applied to him.) His mother, Gertrud (later Gertrude) Weiss, was born in Oppeln in Prussian Silesia (now Poland) on 20 March 1903. The above-referenced Index of Jews whose German citizenship was rescinded under the Nuremberg Laws contains a "Hedwig Auguste Gertrud Weiss," born in Oppeln on 20 March 1903 and then currently resident in Berlin - clearly Weiss' mother. Furthermore, the 1939 US immigration records for the family list all members, including "Gertrud" Weiss, as having been Jewish.
28. Son of Isadore and Anna (née Fishman) Ashkin, Jewish immigrants from Russia and Austria, respectively.
29. Jewish father, Gilbert Ghez, non-Jewish mother. Gilbert Ghez was an Italian-Jewish refugee brought to the US in 1941 at the age of two.
30. Gustav Hertz (1925), Maria Goeppert Mayer (1963), and Aage Bohr (1975) were each, and Frank Wilczek (2004) and Sir Roger Penrose are both, one-quarter Jewish by descent. [For a reference on the Jewish ancestry of Maria Goeppert Mayer, see Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics by Edward Teller (Perseus Publishing, Cambridge, MA, 2001, p. 119). On Frank Wilczek, whose paternal grandfather was Jewish, see the interview with him in Candid Science VI: More Conversations with Famous Scientists, by István Hargittai and Magdolna Hargittai (Imperial College Press, London, 2006, p. 865). Roger Penrose's maternal grandmother, née Sonia Marie Natanson, was a Russian-Jewish pianist. As such, Sir Roger would be considered fully Jewish under Jewish Law.]
We had previously listed Pyotr Kapitsa (1978), based on numerous accounts of his having had a Jewish mother; see. e.g., Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 10 (Keter, Jerusalem, 1972, p. 747). However, the fact that he is not listed in the Russian Jewish Encyclopedia, for which his son Sergei is a consultant (see http://www.jewishgen.org/Belarus/rje_k.htm), together with questions raised by several highly informed members of the Russian-Jewish émigré community, have led us to remove his name. The misidentification appears to have arisen from Kapitsa's extensive involvement with the so-called Jewish Antifascist Committee. Contained below is a summary of the evidence we had previously cited in that connection:
Kapitsa was one of the speakers at the "Rally of the Representatives of the Jewish People" which Stalin ordered to be held in Moscow on August 24, 1941. Kapitsa and the others in attendance signed an appeal directed to their "brother Jews throughout the world"; see Stalin Against the Jews, by Arkady Vaksberg (Knopf, New York, 1994, pp. 107-108). Yehoshua Gilboa, writing in The Black Years of Soviet Jewry (Little, Brown, Boston and Toronto, 1971, pp. 79, 362), states that the appeal was addressed to "our Jewish brothers the world over" and "was signed by persons who had not only never associated themselves with things Jewish, but whose Jewish or semi-Jewish origin had hitherto been a secret. The JAC's image was greatly enhanced by such names as Professor P. Kapitza,..." Gilboa quotes Solomon Mikhoels, the head of the Jewish Antifascist Committee (JAC), as stating in a speech on the occasion of Kapitsa's fiftieth birthday that "I have gone to great pains to spread the fact of your being a Jew..." In Stalin's War Against the Jews (Free Press, New York, 1990, pp. 176-181), Louis Rapoport describes the denouement of the "Doctor's Plot," which was designed to be the pretext for the deportation of most of Soviet Jewry to slave labor camps in Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Birobidzhan. Show trials of the accused doctors were to be followed by "spontaneous" rioting against the Jews throughout the Soviet Union, which was to be followed in turn by publication of an appeal to Stalin by leading Soviet Jews requesting that Soviet Jewry be evacuated for its own protection "to the developing territories in the East." The plot was never actually executed because of Stalin's sudden death on March 5, 1953, and so the appeal was never published, but it has been reconstructed from various sources. It was referred to as "The Statement of the Jews" and contained such phrases as "we, as leading figures among loyal Soviet Jewry..." Although most of those who were "requested" to sign it understood its deadly implications, most were simply too terrified to refuse; according to Rapoport, Kapitsa was among the signatories. [A more recent study, Stalin's Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953, by Jonathan Brent and Vladimir Naumov (HarperCollins, New York, 2003, pp. 300-305) reproduces what purports to be the letter in question and a list of its signatories. According to the authors, the letter was discovered fully typeset and ready for publication in Pravda, but it is not known whether the "signatories" had actually signed it. In any case, the list of signatories does not include Kapitsa.]
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