Rabi, Isidor Isaac
I. I. Rabi (1898-1988) was a prominent American nuclear physicist whose work on atomic theory and international contacts made him one of the most influential scientists in the United States in the middle of the twentieth century. He was born on July 29, 1898, at Rymanov, Galicia, which was then in Austria but is now in Poland. Rabi's parents emigrated with him to the United States while he was an infant, and he grew up in a Yiddish-speaking community in New York City. His father worked in clothing sweat-shops until he became a small-time grocer. Rabi's marriage to Helen Newark produced two daughters. At an early age Rabi discovered the local Carnegie Library of the Brooklyn Public Library and began to read science books, especially on astronomy. He attended the Manual Training High School in Brooklyn, where he graduated in 1916. Rabi entered Cornell University with advanced standing, but with little idea on what to major in, so he picked an electrical engineering major. He graduated from Cornell University in 1919 with a degree in chemistry. For the next three years he worked in a variety of unsuccessful jobs, so in 1922 he returned to Cornell University to graduate school. Soon, however, Rabi transferred to Columbia University. In 1924 he became a part-time tutor in physics at the City College of New York (CCNY). Rabi received his doctorate in physics from Columbia University in 1927. After graduation, he traveled extensively in Europe, making contacts with European physicists. Part of his two-year trip was to study in Germany with Otto Stern, who was doing physics experiments on molecular beams. While there, Rabi discovered a new field configuration of molecular beams, which was later called the Rabi field. Toward the end of his European stay, he was offered a research and teaching position at Columbia University, based upon the recommendation of Werner Heisenberg.