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January 11: Isidor Isaac Rabi

January 11, 2013

Nobel Laureate physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi died on this date in 1988. In 1930 he did research at Columbia University — where he spent the entirety of his long career — into the nature of the force that binds protons to atomic nuclei. This led to his creation of the molecular-beam magnetic-resonance detection method (which can detect and measure the rotation of atoms and molecules and determine the mechanical and magnetic moments of their nuclei), for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1944. Rabi had a close relationship with J. Robert Oppenheimer and was brought to Los Alamos in the days before the first atomic bomb test to help Oppenheimer survive the pressure. Rabi's post-war research contributed to the invention of the laser and the atomic clock. During the Cold War, he was a significant voice among scientists for peace.
"[I]f a man has no feeling for art he is considered narrow-minded, but if he has no feeling for science this is considered quite normal. This is a fundamental weakness." —Isidor Rabi