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Eugene Rabinowitch

PhysicistChicago, IL

Manhattan Project VeteranScientist
Eugene Rabinowitch. Image courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.

Eugene Rabinowitch (1901-1973) was a Russian-American biophysicist and activist.

Rabinowitch was born on April 27, 1901 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin in chemistry in 1926. In the 1930s he moved to England and later to the United States in order to escape anti-Semitism in Germany. In 1944, Rabinowitch moved to Chicago to work at the Metallurgical Laboratory with his former mentor, James Franck.

Rabinowitch was a member of a committee of scientists chaired by Franck formed to study the use the atomic bomb. The committee submitted the Franck Report —mainly written by Rabinowitch—to Secretary of War Henry Stimson on June 11, 1945. In October 1945, he and John Simpson Jr. wrote an article for Life magazine which argued that scientists were morally obligated to warn the public and policy makers about the dangers of nuclear weapons.

That year he also founded the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists with fellow physicists John Simpson and Hyman Goldsmith and was the magazine’s first editor. He edited the Bulletin until his death in 1973. Between 1945 and 1973, Rabinowitch wrote over 100 articles for the magazine.

In the 1950s, Rabinowitch became a leader of a movement to establish an international conference of scientists to discuss challenges raised by nuclear proliferation. Rabinowitch’s European contacts and his Russian language skills helped him gain international support for such a conference. He and Joseph Rotblat, a representative from the Atomic Scientists Association of Great Britain, exchanged letters in 1955 to discuss the organization of a conference. With Rabinowitch’s help, Rotblat put together the first Pugwash Conference in Pugwash, Nova Scotia in July 1957.

Rabinowitch served as a member of the International Continuing Committee of Pugwash from 1957 to 1973 and was its president from 1969 to 1970. He died in Washington, D.C. on May 15, 1973.

Photograph courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.

Eugene Rabinowitch's Timeline
1901 Apr 27th Born in St. Petersburg, Russia.
1921 Moved to Berlin to escape Russian persecution of Jews.
1926 Received a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Berlin.
1929 Received a postdoctoral appointment to work under James Franck in the Gӧttingen Laboratory.
1932 Mar 12th Married Anya Mejerson.
1933 Spent a year in Copenhagen with Neils Bohr at the Institute of Theoretical Physics.
1934 Moved to England to escape anti-Semitism.
1939 Moved to the United States and accepted a position with MIT’s Cabot Solar Energy Research Project.
1944 Began working in the Met Lab in Chicago with his former mentor, James Franck.
1945 Jun 11th Wrote the bulk of the Franck Report.
1945 Oct Wrote an article in Life magazine with John Simpson warning against the further use of nuclear weapons.
1945 Dec The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists of Chicago was published its first magazine.
1947 Became a professor of botany at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
1955 Helped establish the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.
1957 Jul He attended the first Pugwash Conference in Pugwash, Nova Scotia and was a founder and vocal supporter of the Pugwash organization.
1968 Left the University of Illinois to take a position at the State University of Albany as a professor of biology and chemistry.
1973 May 15th Died in Washington, D.C. at the age of seventy-two.

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