An underlooked field of contribution

School’s back in session this week (last week for some of us), and as I’m in school for a technical career, I got to thinking about something.  The contributions of Jews to the humanities are many, in many cases well-known and justly celebrated. So, too, the fields of medicine and entertainment.  So, I thought, what about science and technology?

The number of Jews in science and philosophy, just from this Wikipedia link is pretty staggering – the list itself is separated into several countries.

Now, I will not at all go into a lengthy explanation of all of them, just highlight a couple things:

The inventor of the first oral contraceptive pill, Carl Djerassi, is an Austrian Jew of Austrian and Bulgarian Sephardic origin. He didn’t set out to invent this, obviously, but this is nonetheless what happened. Pretty major invention, I’d say!

Famously, as well, Lise Meitner, also of Austrian origin, was part of the team which discovered nuclear fission, though overlooked for the Nobel Prize that year.

Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractal geometry, is a Polish Jew.
Hell, French Jews alone account for six Nobel Prizes and one Fields Medal winner in mathematics – Laurent Schwartz, who won the medal for his theory of distributions.

Ernst Chain co-won the Nobel Prize in 1945 for his pioneering work on penicillin. The “magic bullet” concept in targeting bacteria independent of its surroundings was pioneered by Paul Ehrlich, another German Jew. Ralph Baer, winner of the National Medal of Technology, was a pioneer of video games and also a German Jew.

Rosalind Marie Franklin, a British Jewish woman, was a pioneer of DNA theory, polio research and the fight against the tobacco mosaic virus.

One of the two developers of the BASIC programming language, John George Kemeny, was a Hungarian Jew.

The full list, of course, is much longer than this post, but I wanted to help recognize some of the giants of science that are and have been Jews over the years. Consider yourselves illuminated!

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3 Responses

  1. There was also some guy named Alvin or Albert or something who was pretty good at that science stuff. Or so I’ve heard (I’m a law student — what I do I know about it?).

  2. I think most people know that this Alex guy was Jewish. I can’t remember his name, though – Eisenstein? Yeah…Alex Eisenstein. Good catch!

  3. You’re thinking of the lead singer of the chipmunks. And it’s SIMON who’s good at science, sheesh.

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