THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS — Friday, July 22, 1960
Tina Levitan, young American Jewish author
whose works have appeared in both Hebrew and
English, is the author of a new book which
promises to create considerable discussion.
In "The Laureates — Jewish Winners of the
Nobel Prize," just issued by Twayne Publishers
(31 Union Square West, N.Y. 3), Miss Levitan
lists 40 Jews as Nobel Prize winners. Included
among them, however, are eight half-Jews and three
of Jewish parentage who became converts to
Also: she lists among the Nobel Prize winners
Boris Pasternak, whose parents were Jews but who
certainly did not consider himself a Jew.
HoW will Jewish readers accept such listings?
• There will be less of a dispute regarding Henri
Bergson, another Nobel Prize winner, who, it has
been said, flirted with Catholicism but refrained
from becoming baptized after Hitler came to power.
Yet, the question of "Jewish affiliation" and
"Jewish heritage" no doubt will enter into the
discussions, and Miss Levitan has provided us with
a subject for debate.
Perhaps the best way of introducing the subject
is by first referring to the article, "Great Ameri-
can Scientists: The Physicists," in a recent issue
of Fortune Magazine. Describing this group of 11
great scientists, the Fortune article stated: "Five
have won Nobel Prizes. Eight are of Jewish
ancestry,•but none of the 11 has any formal interests
in religion ... All 11 discovered in physics a depth,
beauty, and intellectual challenge they could find
Thus, we come back to the question: who and
what is a Jew?, and Miss Levitan's account may
stir anew a debate of considerable' interest.
The first in Miss Levitan's recorded list of
"Jewish" Nobel Prize winners is Adolph Baeyer,
who won the prize, in chemistry, "through his work
on organic dyes and hydroaromatic com-
pounds." His father was a distinguished non-JeWish
scientist; his mother was a Hitzig, daughter of a
famous Jewish historian and jurist.
The other half-Jews, listed in "The Laureates"
Niels Henrick David Bohr—"for his services in
the investigation of the structure of atoms"—
whose mother, Ella Adler, was Jewish, and his
father a Christian Dane.
Enrico Fermi—gar his related discovery of
nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons"
—"the son of Alberto Fermi and Ida Gattis whose
antecedents were Jewish."
Gustav Hertz, who shared the physics award
with a full Jew, James Franck—"for their dis-
covery of the laws governing the impact of an
electron upon an atom"—was of Jewish descent
on his father's side. He remained in Germany
during the war and is believed to have died in
Russia in 1950.
Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse—"lyric poet,
dramatist, novelist and writer of world-renowned
short stories"—son of a German non-Jewish father,
whose mother "came from a Jewish family of
wealth and social rank."
.Elie Metchnikoff—noted Russian physician—
"in recognition of his work on immunity"—who,
"unlike virtually all the Jewish Nobel laureates,
made special mention of his Jewish mother and
was named for his maternal grandfather. He
inherited his mother's cast of mind and ascribed
his love of science to his Jewish descent."
Henry Maissan—who received the chemistry
award "in his investigation and isolation of the
element fluorine, and for the adoption in the service
of science of the electric furnace called after him"
—whose French Jewish mother's maiden name was
Herman Joseph Muller—another medicine prize
winner—"for the discovery of the production of
mutations by means of X-ray irradiation"—a native
of New York whose mother was Frances Lyon whose
parents came from Great Britain but were des-
cended from Portugese and Spanish-Jewish stock.
The three who became Christians are:
Fritz Haber—ch•mist—"for the synthesis of
am,mOnia from its elements, nitrogen and hydrogen"
—who was deprived of his position in the Kaiser
Wilhelm Institute in Berlin by the Nazis because
he resented the dismissal of his Jewish assistants,
at the time when he himself was not molested.
Karl Landsteiner—physician—`'for his discovery
of human blood groups"—who gained notoriety.
when he sued the publishers of "Jewish Who's Who"
for listing him as a Jew. He died in 1943:
Otto Warburg—medicine prize winner—gar his
discovery of the nature and mode of action of the
respiratory enzyme"—who, "like his father, the
physicist, Emil Warburg, was baptized."
The full-fledged Jews listed in Miss Levitan's
Chemistry prize winners:
Otto Wallach—for his "pioneer work in the
of Full-Fledged Jews and Converts
field of alicyclic compounds." He was an East
Richard Willstatter—who attended the Congress
of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in.
1930, "thus making apparent his fundamental
integrity as a Jew"—"for his researches on plant
pigments, especially chlorophyll."
George de Hevesy—Hungarian Jew—"far his
work on the use of isotopes as tracers in the study
of chemical processes."
A Review of Status of Jewish
Nobel Prize Winners and Discussion
In the field of physics are the following full-
fledged Jewish Nobel laureates:
Albert Abraham Michelson, who was brought
to the U.S. by his parents from Prussia at the age
of 2—"for his optical precision instruments and
the spectroscopic and metrological investigations
carried out with their aid."
Gabriel Lippmann—a native of Germany—
"the father of color photography"—"for his method
of reproducing colors photographically, based on
the phenomenon of interference."
Albert Einstein—"for his contribution to
mathematical physics, and especially for his dis-
covery of the law of the photoelectric effect."
Einstein's biographical sketch is the longest in
Miss Levitan's book.
James Franck—already mentioned as co-winner
of the physics award with the half-Jew Gustav
Hertz—a native of Germany who since 1938 has
occupied the chair of physical chemistry at the
University of Chicago—"for the discovery of the
Otto Stern—native of Germany who was com-
pelled to leave in 1933 and was research physics
professor at the Carnegie Institute of Technology
in Pittsburgh from 1933 to 1945—"for his contribu-
tion to the development of the molecular ray
method and his discovery of the magnetic moment
of the proton."
Is•dor Isaac Rabi—brought by his parents to
the United States at the age of 1 from Austria-
Hungary—who takes a deep interest in the Haifa
Technion—"for his resonance method of recording
the magnetic properties of atomic -nuclei."
Felix Bloch—Swiss-born—who has taught in
the United States—co-winner of the physics award
with Edward Mills Purcell—gar their development
of new methods for nuclear magnetic precision
measurements and discoveries in connection there-
Max Born—co-winner of the prize with 'Walther
Bothe—German-born—forced to leave for England
where he taught after the advent of Hitler—"for
his fundamental research in quantum mechanics,
especially for his statistical interpretation of •ave-
Igor Tamm—who shared the prize with two
other Russians, Pavel Cherenkov and Ilya Frank—
"for the discovery and the interpretation of the
Emilio Segre—who shared the prize with Owen
Chamberlain—left his native Italy "under the
impact of Mussolini's Fascism when it began taking
on anti-Jewish directions" and taught in California
—"far their discovery of the existence of the sub-
atomic particle called the antiproton."
Here are the full-fledged Jewish Nobel Prize
winners in physiology and medicine:
Paul Ehrlich—who shared the prize with Elie
Metchnikoff, who was already mentioned among
the half-Jews----a native of Germany—"in recogni-
tion of his work on immunity."
Robert Barany—the great Austro-Hungarian
otologist—who became famous for the "Barany
tests"—"for his work an the physiology and
pathology of the vestibular apparatus."
Otto Meyerhof—who shared the award with
Archibald Vivian Hill—German-born, who escaped
to the United States in 1940 and taught at the
University of Pennsylvania—"for his discovery of
the fixed relation between the consumption of
oxygen and the metabolism of lactid acid in
Otto Loewi—who.shared the award with Henry
Hallett Dale—German-born, since 1940 research
professor at New York University—gar their dis-
coveries relating to chemical transmission of nerve
Joseph Erlanger—shared the award with Her-
bert Spencer Gasser—a native of San Francisco—
"for his discoveries regarding the highly differen-
tiated functions of single nerve fibers."
Ernst Boris Chain—co-winner with Sir Alex-
ander Fleming and Sir Howard Florey—Gerniaw
born, who has taught in Italy and in England—
ardent Zionist—a governor of the Weizmann
. Institute of Science in Israel—"for the discovery of
penicillin and its curative effect in various infec-
tious diseases." "Dr. Chain's wife is a sister of the
historian, Prof. Max Beloff, and is a biochemist in
her own right."
Tadeus Reichstein—shared award with Edward
Kendall and Philip Hench—son of a Russian
engineer, settled in Switzerland and taught at the
Basle University, "for their discoveries relating to
the hormones of the adrenal cortex, their structure
and biological effects."
Selman Abraham Waksmam—the distinguished
Rutgers University scientist—"for his discovery of
streptomycin, the first antibiotic effective against
tuberculosis." Dr. Waksman takes a deep interest
in many American and world Jewish affairs.
Hans Adolph Krebs—co-winner of the award
with Fritz Lipinann—son of a German surgeon, did
research in England and the United States—
received Lasker Award from U.S. Public Health
Association for "outstanding contributions to medical
research and public health"—"for his discovery of
the citric acid cycle." Dr. Krebs was called "one
of the greatest scientists we have—a man who will
one day win the Nobel Prize," Dr. Chaim Weizmann
prophesized 20 years ago, and the attg - cry came
true in 19,53. At Dr. Weizmann's invitation, Dr.
Krebs did research work in Jerusalem.
Fritz Lipmann—co-winner of the award with
Hans Adolph Krebs—native of Germany—came to
the United States to teach - and do research at
Harvard, Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research
and other scientific institutes—"for his discovery
of coenzyme A and its importance for intermediary
Joshua Lederberg—co-winner of award with
George Wells Beadle and Edward Lawrie Tatum—
son of Montclair, N.J., orthodox rabbi—"for his
discoveries concerning genetic recombination and
the organization of genetic material of bacteria."
Arthur Kornberg—shared award with Severo
Ochoa—born in Brooklyn—"for discoveries of the
mechanism in the biological synthesis in ribonucleic
acids and deoxyribonucleic acids."
In the field of literature, Miss Levitan lists,
in addition to Paul Heyse,—
Henri Bergson—French author and philosopher
—"in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas
and the brilliant skill with which they are pre-
sented"; and -
Boris Pasternak—"for his important achieve-
ment both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the
field of the great Russian epic tradition."
Two are listed as Nobel Prize winners in world
peace. Both shared the award in 1911. They are:
Alfred Fried—Viennese—author of "Die Waf-
fen Nieder"—"Down with Armaments"—which,
was called the "Uncle Tam's Cabin" of the peace
movement—honored as "journalist and founder of
Die Friedenswarte, a peace publication.
Tobias Michael Carel Asser—statesman—mem-
ber of the Dutch Cabinet—honored with the Nobel
Peace Prize at the age of 75, in recognition of his
lifelong devotion to the cause of international
friendship, justice and peace.
Countries of origin of the Jewish Nobel Prize
winners show Germany heading the list—with 15
out of the 40. The United States is second, with
eight. Four were Austrians, three each from France
and Russia, two . each from Italy and Switzerland
and one each from Denmark, Holland and Hungary.
Sixteen of the Jewish prize winners were in the
field of medicine, 13 in physics, six in chemistry,.
three in literature and two as peace advocates. .
"Trial and Error," the autobiography of Dr.
Chaim Weizmann, published jointly by Harper &
Brothers and the Jewish Publication Society of
America, comments on several of the noted Jewish
scientists, notably Richard Willstatter and Fritz
Haber. Speaking of Willstatter's kindness to him,
when he opened a "little laboratory," in 1931, Dr.
"He was by that time no longer on the faculty
of Munich University, but not because of govern-
mental action. At a meeting of the university
senate some time in 1928 a discussion had arisen
about the appointment of a mineralogist. A candi-
date was proposed, a front rank mineralogist by
the name of Goldschmidt. As soon as the name
was mentioned a murmur arose in the meeting and
someone remarked: 'Wieder ein Jude!' (another
Jew). Without saying a word Willstatter rose, col-
lected his papers and left the room. He never
crossed the threshold of the university again, this
despite the repeated entreaties of his colleagues
and of the Bavarian government. It was felt—this
was still 1928—that he was too valuable a man to.
lose, that his withdrawal was a severe blow to the
prestige of the university. It was a tragedy for,
Willstatter to be deprived of the laboratory in
which he had been accustomed to work, but he
found a place in the Munich Academy of Science.
Not that he ever entered that place either! He
directed the work from the outside, and as he
told me with a sad smile in 1931, he would be - on
the telephone with his assistants for between an
hour and two hours a day ... Although his reputa-
tion was immense, and he was a Nobel Prize winner,
he was modest, unassuming and retiring in his
character; he often reminded me of the old-ti•e
venerable type of great Jewish Rabbi."
Willstatter refused to leave Germany. He- came
to the opening of the Daniel Sieff Research Insti-
tute in Rehovat, Palestine. But he returned to his
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