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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62 (1993)

Chapter: SCIENTIST STATESMAN

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Suggested Citation:"SCIENTIST STATESMAN." National Academy of Sciences. 1993. Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2201.
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Page 319
Suggested Citation:"SCIENTIST STATESMAN." National Academy of Sciences. 1993. Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2201.
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Page 320

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I. I. RABI 319 so good. Stern had this quality of taste in physics and he had it to the highest degree. As far as I know, Stern never devoted himself to a minor question. For a number of years Rabi was a highly effective chairman of the Columbia Physics Department; his critical and stimulating presence was clearly responsible for much of that department's greatness. Although Rabi was not directly involved in physics experiments after 1960, he retained an active and critical interest in the field and was a regular and stimulating participant in atomic physics meetings and seminars until a few months before he died from cancer on January 11, 1988, at the age of eighty- nine. SCIENTIST STATESMAN Rabi's influence extended far beyond his own and his students' research through his membership on important committees, his presidency of the American Physical Society, his many public lectures, and his innovative proposals for new means of cooperation among institutions and nations. Discussions late in 1945 between Rabi and Oppenheimer led to the Acheson- Lillienthal-Baruch plan proposed by the United States for the international control of atomic energy. One of Rabi's greatest disappointments was that this forward-looking plan, after initial favorable consideration, was never adopted by the United Nations. Rabi was a member of the AEC General Advisory Committee and joined with Enrico Fermi in writing a strong memorandum supporting the controversial GAC recommendation against a crash program for the development of a hydrogen bomb. Later, Rabi became chairman of the GAC and an eloquent defender of Oppenheimer in the AEC hearings that culminated in the removal of Oppenheimer's security clearance.

I. I. RABI 320 Rabi and Ramsey initiated the first proposals for Brookhaven National Laboratory and were early strong proponents for the construction of the Cosmotron. Later, with the model of Brookhaven in mind, Rabi pioneered in advocating the European collaboration that led to CERN. Rabi was the initiator of the International Conferences on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy and a principal speaker at them. Through his friendship with President Eisenhower, Rabi was largely responsible for the establishment in 1957 of the President's Science Advisory Committee and the Office of Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. For many years Rabi was the U.S. representative to the NATO Science Committee, where he effectively advocated the establishment of the highly successful NATO supported Summer Schools and Fellowship program. Rabi was the recipient of many honorary degrees and awards, including election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1940, the Japan Academy in 1950, and the French Legion of Honor in 1956. He received the 1944 Nobel Prize, the 1948 U.S. Medal for Merit, Britain's 1948 King's Medal, the 1964 Priestley Memorial Award, the 1967 Niels Bohr International Gold Medal, the 1967 Atoms for Peace Award, the 1982 Oersted Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the 1985 Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal, the 1985 Public Welfare Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, and the 1986 Vannevar Bush Award of the National Science Foundation. Rabi's carefully prepared public lectures were stimulating and presented fresh points of view, as illustrated by his words at the Fourth International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy: Real peace is more than the absence of violent war. To fulfill human expectations peace must be a condition which permits the release of the

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Biographic Memoirs: Volume 62 contains the biographies of deceased members of the National Academy of Sciences and bibliographies of their published works. Each biographical essay was written by a member of the Academy familiar with the professional career of the deceased. For historical and bibliographical purposes, these volumes are worth returning to time and again.

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