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    The Polish Nobel laureates series: Isidor Isaac Rabi

    Isidor Isaac Rabi was an American physicist who was born into a traditional Polish-Jewish family in Rymanów. He attended a traditional elementary school teaching the basics of Judaism in Poland, but at the age of 4, he moved with his mother to the USA. His parents gave him support and he flourished in the fields of chemistry and physics there. In 1944, Isidor Isaac Rabi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for using nuclear magnetic resonance techniques to discern the magnetic moment and nuclear spin of atoms.

    His early work includes research on the magnetic properties of crystals. Isidor Isaac Rabi began studying the magnetic properties of atomic nuclei and developed Stern’s molecular beam method which became a tool for measuring these properties with great precision in 1930.  

    He was also an active writer in the Physical Review scientific journal where publishes original research, as well as scientific and literature reviews on all aspects of physics, are published.

    During World War II, Rabi took part in development of the atomic bomb. After the war he promoted peace and the limiting of nuclear weapons. He also played a significant role in establishing major research laboratories in Brookhaven and CERN. (nobelprize.org)

    Even though he was a great scientist, he struggled with passing on knowledge to his students at the Columbia University in New York.

    Leon Lederman recalled that after a lecture, students would head to the library to try to work out what Rabi had been talking about. Irving Kaplan rated Rabi and Harold Urey as “the worst teachers I ever had”. Norman Ramsey considered Rabi’s lectures “pretty dreadful”, while William Nierenberg felt that he was “simply an awful lecturer”. Despite his shortcomings as a lecturer, his influence was great. He inspired many of his students to pursue careers in physics, and some became famous (wikipedia.org)

    Isidor Isaac Rabi received many honors in addition to the Nobel Prize during his lifetime. The list of his awards includes the Elliott Cresson Medal from the Franklin Institute in 1942, the Medal for Merit, the King’s Medal for Service in the Cause of Freedom from Great Britain in 1948, the officer in the French Legion of Honour in 1956 and many more.

    According to one of the Polish websites biznesistyl.pl, together with his wife he visited his hometown Rymanów, Poland in 1971. His father’s and mother’s families had been from there for at least several generations. Rabi may not have remembered his birthplace, yet he came to Rymanów in 1971, after almost 70 years of absence from his ancestors’ place. The Jewish community in Rymanów remembers about its compatriot. They put flowers on a plaque dedicated to his person or recite the Sabbath prayer. 

    We encourage you to check the rest of the articles regarding the Polish Nobel laureates series below:  

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: MARIA SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: HENRYK SIENKIEWICZ

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: ALBERT A. MICHELSON

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: WŁADYSŁAW REYMONT

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