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Abraham Pais was Detlev W. Bronk Professor Emeritus at The Rockefeller University in New York City. — biography from J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Life
Paul Dirac: The Man and his Work (Contributor) 53 copies, 1 review
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Abraham Pais was born to a Jewish family in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His parents were Kaatje "Cato" (van Kleeff) and Isaiah "Jacques" Pais, a descendant of 17th century Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Portugal. They were both elementary school teachers. He also had a younger sister, Annie. Pais graduated first in his class in high school, having learned to speak English, French, and German. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and was awarded two Bachelor of Science degrees in physics and mathematics in 1938, with minors in chemistry and astronomy. That autumn, he enrolled for graduate classes at University of Utrecht under George Eugen Uhlenbeck, and also got to know Hendrik Anthony Kramers, a physics professor at Leiden University who lectured at Utrecht. He also was guided by Leonard Salomon Ornstein and influenced by discussions with Léon Rosenfeld of the University of Liège. Pais completed his master's degree in April 1940. In May, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in World War II. Pais worked feverishly to complete his dissertation and obtained his doctoral degree in theoretical physics on June 9; his was the last PhD issued to a Dutch Jew until after the war. Pais survived the Nazi occupation in hiding with the help of a friend, Tina Strobos, and his harrowing experiences stayed with him all his life. His sister Annie died at the Sobibor extermination camp. After the war, Pais served briefly as an assistant to Niels Bohr in Denmark before emigrating to the USA in 1946. He joined the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he was a colleague of Albert Einstein. Over the next 25 years, he made many important contributions to elementary particle theory. In 1963, he moved to Rockefeller University in New York City to lead the theoretical physics group, finishing his career as the Detlev W. Bronk Professor Emeritus. After his retirement, he and his third wife, Danish anthropologist Ida Nicolaisen, spent half of each year in Copenhagen, where he worked at the Niels Bohr Institute. In the late 1970s, Pais turned to writing science history and biography. His books included the highly-acclaimed Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein (1982) and Inward Bound: Of Matter and Forces in the Physical World (1986). He also wrote Niels Bohr's Times: In Physics, Philosophy, and Polity (1991), and in 1995 teamed with Laurie M. Brown and Sir Brian Pippard on a three-volume reference work, Twentieth Century Physics. That year, Rockefeller University awarded him the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science. He published his autobiography, A Tale of Two Continents: A Physicist's Life in a Turbulent World, in 1997. His book The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (2000) contains biographies of 17 distinguished physicists he had known personally. Pais was working on a biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer at the time of his death; it was completed by Robert P. Crease and published posthumously as J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Life (2006).
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