Isidor Rabi was an American physicist and the winner of the 1944 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Rabi was born in Raymanov in 1898, in what was then Austria-Hungary. His family immigrated to the United States in 1899. Rabi received a B.S. in chemistry from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University, where he researched the magnetic properties of crystals. He went on to spend two years in Europe, where he researched with scientists including Arnold Sommerfeld, Niels Bohr, Wolfgang Pauli, Otto Stern, and Werner Heisenberg. Rabi returned to the United States to become a professor at Columbia University.
During World War II, Rabi worked as Associate Director of the Radiation Laboratory at MIT where he researched radar. Having rejected J. Robert Oppenheimer’s offer to make him deputy director of the Manhattan Project, Rabi agreed to serve as a consultant for the project and made occasional trips to work at Los Alamos. He was present for the Trinity Test on July 16, 1945. Rabi received the 1944 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his resonance method for recording the magnetic properties of atomic nuclei.” For more information on Rabi’s scientific accomplishments, please visit the Nobel Prize website.
After the war, Rabi returned to Columbia where he became the executive officer of the Physics Department. His continued research into the properties of nuclear magnetic resonance would later be developed for medical purposes in MRI machines. During this time, he also became an outspoken critic of the continued development of nuclear weapons, joining with Enrico Fermi to oppose the hydrogen “super” bomb and working with Oppenheimer to support the Baruch Plan for international control of atomic energy.
Rabi would also serve as head of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission and a member of the President’s Science Advisory Committee. He helped with the development of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and co-founded the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Rabi died on January 11, 1988 in New York City.