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Isidor Isaac Rabi
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Scientist
    (July 29, 1898-January 11, 1988)
    Born in Rymanow, Poland
    Birth name was Israel Isaac Rabi
    Discovered nuclear magnetic resonance
    Received the Nobel Prize in Physics (1944)
    Chair of the Physics Department at Columbia University (1945-49)
    Member of the President's Science Advisory Committee (1952-68)
    While a college student, he lost several teeth to malnutrition: 'I was living on a dollar a day, and I didn't see wasting the money on vegetables.'
    His lectures as a professor at Columbia were described as 'simply awful' and 'pretty dreadful,' with students immediately heading to the library to try to figure out what Rabi had been talking about.
    He believed women could not be physicists, never had a female doctoral or post doc student, and opposed women as candidates for faculty positions.
    He refused to join the Manhattan Project because he believed atomic weapons were immoral, but had no qualms about urging other scientists, like Hans Bethe, to join.
    He published his first scientific paper while in elementary school.
    He presented himself as a classic immigrant success story, saying 'It takes a person like me to understand what a wonderful country America is.'
    He was married to Helen Newmark for 61 years until his death.
    In defending Manhattan Project leader J. Robert Oppenheimer against charges of disloyalty, he noted, 'We have the A-bomb.... What more do you want, mermaids?'
    He refused to take out patents on his discoveries.
    His discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance made atomic clocks, lasers and GPS possible.
    He said, 'I think physicists are the Peter Pans of the human race. They never grow up and they keep their curiosity.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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