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Tags: nobel laureates | jewish american heritage

Celebrating 136 Jewish-American Nobel Science Laureates

both sides of the nobel prize award

Mark Schulte By Tuesday, 16 May 2023 12:50 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

President Joe Biden has proclaimed May 2023 Jewish American Heritage Month, urging “all Americans to learn more about the heritage and contributions” of the adherents of this nearly 4,000-year-old religion, and “to observe this month with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.”

One of Jewish Americans’ most spectacular achievements is their having won 136 of the 730, or 19%, of all Nobel prizes in Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Economics.

In Economics, Jewish-American scholars account for 35 of 92 laureates, or 38%.

They are 42 of 225 of Medicine laureates, or 19%.

Jewish-American physicists earned 40 of 222 prizes, or 18%.

And in Chemistry, they are 19 of 191 laureates, or 10%.

Nobel prizes in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine were first awarded in 1901, while the Economics prize was introduced in 1969.

In 1907, physicist Albert Abraham Michelson, a graduate of San Francisco’s distinguished Lowell High School and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, became the first Jewish American to win the prize in a scientific field.

Dr. Joseph Erlanger, the Medicine laureate in 1944, also graduated from Lowell High School in the 19th century.

However, New York City’s high schools educated a mind-boggling 41 of the 136 Jewish-American winners, or 30%, in the four scientific categories. Thirty-eight graduated from public high schools, and three from private ones.

The Bronx High School of Science leads with seven Jewish laureates; followed by James Madison High School, 5; Stuyvesant and Abraham Lincoln, 4 each; and Townsend Harris and Far Rockway high schools, 3 each.

Thirty-nine of the 41 NYC-educated Jewish laureates are male. Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921-2011) and Gertrude Elion (1918-99), are the two female winners, and they graduated from the Bronx’s Walton High School and Hunter College, a senior college of the City University of New York (CUNY).

City College of New York, another CUNY institution, produced nine Jewish science laureates, and Brooklyn College has one.

Eleven other Nobelists, who are graduates of a NYC high school, received an undergraduate degree from Columbia University. Overall, a phenomenal 28 Jewish-American laureates received their undergraduate, graduate and/or medical degrees from this nationally-renowned institution in upper Manhattan.

On May 4, 2023, Jennifer Raab, the president of Hunter College since 2001, wrote an essay for the Jewish-oriented Tablet Magazine, which focuses solely on Gertrude Elion, the Medicine laureate and Hunter alumna. Unfortunately, “Bringing Home the Gold” devotes just one sentence to the college’s Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, and it totally ignores the other 134 Jewish-American science laureates.

Moreover, while President Raab points that Elion and Sussman Yalow are two of the only 12 women to win the Medicine prize, she overlooks two other Jewish-American female recipients, Drs. Gerty Cori and Rita Levi-Montalcini. They immigrated to America in 1922 from Czechoslovakia and from Italy in 1946.

Dr. Cori earned her medical degree in Prague in 1920, and Dr. Levi-Montalcini in Turin in 1936. Gerty Cori and husband Carl, who was not Jewish, shared the 1947 Medicine Prize.

Beginning in 1931, they worked at the highly-esteemed Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, as did Dr. Levi-Montalcini, Dr. Joseph Erlanger and five other Jewish Nobel laureates.

In addition to Drs. Cori and Levi-Montalcini, 32 other Jewish-American laureates immigrated to America from many European countries after World War I. They include physicists Albert Einstein, James Franck and Emilio Segre; and chemists Roald Hoffmann and Martin Karplus.

Among immigrant Jewish-American Nobel winners in Medicine are Karl Landsteiner, Salvador Luria, and Baruj Benacerraf. In Economics, they include Simon Kuznets, Wassily Leontief, and Franco Modigliani.

Thirty-seven Jewish laureates, who received their entire K-12 education in American schools, are members of “The Greatest Generation,” who were born between 1901 and 1927. Many served, either in uniform or on the home front, during World War II.

Amazingly, Physics laureate Roy Glauber (1925-2018), who was in the Bronx Science’s first graduating class in 1941, was an 18-year-old Harvard student two years later, when he was recruited to the Atomic-bomb project at Los Alamos, according to his fascinating autobiography on the Nobel Foundation’s website.

Dr. Levi-Montalcini’s much briefer sketch recounts her survival, between the autumn of 1943 and the summer of 1944, during the Wehrmacht’s brutal occupation of Italy. She then worked as a physician for the U.S. Army in Florence, treating civilian refugees who were suffering from various deadly infectious diseases.

On May 9, 2023, bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate and House introduced resolutions recognizing the enormous contributions of Jewish Americans, who have lived in this country since 1654.

The House resolution, submitted by Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Florida, praises Jewish Americans for having “won Nobel prizes, led universities and corporations, [and] advanced medicine and philanthropy.”

Indeed, two Jewish-American brothers, Dr. Simon Flexner (1863-1946) and Abraham Flexner (1866-1959) are among the progenitors of America’s Nobel laureates in the four scientific categories. Dr. Flexner, a prominent physician-scientist, was the founding director in 1901 of Rockefeller University in Manhattan, where 26 Nobel laureates have worked.

Abraham Flexner was a path-breaking reformer of American colleges and medical schools in the early 20th century. He then founded in 1930, with the financial support of Jewish-American philanthropists Louis and Caroline Bamberger, the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Twenty-six Nobel laureates, including Albert Einstein, have conducted research there.

Mark Schulte is a retired New York City schoolteacher and mathematician who has written extensively about science and the history of science. Read Mark Schulte's Reports — More Here.

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President Joe Biden has proclaimed May 2023 Jewish American Heritage Month, urging "all Americans to learn more about the heritage and contributions" of the adherents of this nearly 4,000-year-old religion, and "to observe this month with appropriate programs, activities,...
nobel laureates, jewish american heritage
Tuesday, 16 May 2023 12:50 PM
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