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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Benjamin Liebowitz

PhysicistColumbia University

Liebowitz with Thomas Edison

Benjamin Liebowitz was an American physicist and inventor.

Liebowitz was born in 1890 in New York City. He received a Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University and during his early years worked for Thomas Edison. His research focus was on quantum mechanics and relativity, and he would later publish papers on these subjects.

Liebowitz met physicist Leo Szilard in New York in 1932 and the two quickly became friends. Szilard encouraged Liebowitz to visit Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and Franz Boas at Columbia University to try to get the two to meet. Szilard and Liebowitz hoped that their interest could raise support in the United States for the refugee situation in Europe.

In 1939, Szilard discovered that a uranium-based chain reaction might be possible, but he needed further experimentation to prove it. Out of money, Szilard borrowed $5,000 from Liebowitz, thus providing the first American funding for chain reaction experiments and changing the course of history.

During World War II, Liebowitz worked on radar development. He would go on to found the Trubenizing Process Corporation, which revolutionized the shirt industry after Liebowitz invented the semi-stiff collar, eliminating the need for starch after washing.

Liebowitz died in 1977 in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Photograph of Liebowitz (left) and Edison courtesy of Rebecca Barnes.

Benjamin Liebowitz's Timeline
1890 Born in New York City.
1939 Loaned Leo Szilard $5000 to fund the first nuclear chain reaction experiments.
1977 Jan 29th Died in Norwalk, Connecticut.

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