The Jewish Roots of STEM

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STEM abbreviation  

The term used to talk about the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

Did you know that a lot of the experiments and scientific discoveries in STEM have Jewish roots? (…yes, that was a plant pun)

We’re all pretty familiar with the likes of Albert Einstein, Hedy Lamarr and Mayim Bialik, but here are 12 lesser known (to me) Members of the Tribe who changed the world in ways you won’t beleaf (#sorrynotsorry):

Ralph H. Baer

Jens Wolf /DPA /Landov

Ready player one? Meet Ralph H. Baer, the Father of Video Games. This German-American engineer invented a system known as the “Brown Box,” the first home video game console and precursor to the Nintendos and Ataris of today. 

(He’s also responsible for the handheld memory game, Simon, a must-have toy in the 1970s and 80s.)

Judith Love Cohen

Photo/LOOK Magazine

Judith Love Cohen was an aerospace engineer who contributed to scientific breakthroughs like the Hubble Telescope and putting the first man on the moon (through the Apollo Space Program). 

After she retired, she turned her attention to writing and empowering the next generation of young women to pursue a career in STEM.

She’s also Jack Black’s mom! (How cool??)

Dennis Gabor

AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection.

Remember a few years back when everyone lost their minds at that hologram of Tupac? Well, you have this Jewish physicist to thank for that (sort of). 

Known as the Father of Holography, Dennis Gabor received the 1971 Nobel Prize in Physics for “his invention and development of the holographic method.” It wasn’t until the 1960s (17 years after he invented Holography) and the invention of the laser that the first hologram was realized. 

Theodore Maiman

Speaking of lasers… 

The first laser was successfully fired on May 16, 1960 by Theodore Maiman. That day has since been named the International Day of Light and it’s celebrated worldwide with various laser and light shows (though I celebrate by calling my mom to wish her a happy birthday).

Stefanie Horovitz

Long forgotten, Stefanie was a Polish chemist responsible for proving the existence of isotopes and that elements could have different atomic weights in the early to mid 1910s. This discovery had major implications for chemists (then and now), including disproving the existence of the claimed element, ionium.

Stefanie was murdered by the Nazis in Treblinka in 1942.

Robert Moog

Courtesy of the Bob Moog Foundation

An engineering physicist, Moog was the pioneer of electronic music. In 1964, he invented the first commercial synthesizer, also known as the Moog synthesizer. He improved on this version and in1971 he released the Minimoog, a portable and more affordable version of the original, which is thought to be the most influential synthesizer in history.

Honorable Mentions:

Vera Rubin, astronomer: her work provided some of the first evidence of the existence of dark matter

Simcha Blass, engineer: invented the drip water irrigation system 

Rube Goldberg, engineer: invented the Rube Goldberg Machine (raise your hand if you first learned about these on Zoom!)

Regina Kapeller-Adler, biochemist: invented an early detection pregnancy test (you know the pee-on-a-stick ones we use today? Ya, that was her!)

Dean Kamen, engineer: invented the Segway and founded FIRST, an organization aimed at building students’ interest in STEM

Paul Eisler, engineer: invented the printed circuit board (found in pretty much any electronic these days, from heart rate monitors to Apple Watches)

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