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Hall, Theodore (20 Oct. 1925–1 Nov. 1999), physicist and spy, was born in Far Rockaway, New York to Rose Moskowitz and Barnett Holtzberg, who owned a fur workshop. Ted and his older brother, Ed, changed their surname from Holtzberg to Hall in 1936...

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Landauer, Rolf (24 Feb. 1927–27 April 1999), industrial physicist, was born in Stuttgart, Germany, to Karl and Anna Landauer. The Landauers were Jewish, and following Karl’s death in 1934 Anna extricated the family from an increasingly hostile environment. Thus, in 1938 Rolf became one of the younger members of the great tide of scientific émigrés—most notably ...

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Ride, Sally K. (26 May 1951–23 July 2012), astronaut, physicist, and science educator, was born Sally Kristen Ride in Los Angeles, California, the elder child of Joyce and Dale B. Ride. Dale, a World War II veteran, taught high school social studies before teaching political science at Santa Monica Community College. Joyce worked briefly at UCLA and volunteered for decades for women’s prison reform. Ride’s younger sister, Karen, whom Sally called “Bear” (a nickname that stuck permanently), grew up to become an ordained Presbyterian minister. Ride attributed her self-contained disposition to her mother’s Norwegian heritage and her introverted family....

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Sally Ride, 1983, unknown photographer

courtesy of NASA

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Seitz, Frederick (4 July 1911–2 Mar. 2008), physicist, university president, and scientific consultant, was born in San Francisco, California to Frederick and Emily Hofman Seitz, who ran a small local bakery successful enough to offer their only child a comfortable middle-class upbringing. Seitz attended Monroe Elementary School and Lick-Wilmerding High School, where he served as class president and from which he graduated a semester early in December ...

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Teller, Edward (15 Jan. 1908–9 Sept. 2003), physicist, and “father of the hydrogen bomb,” was born Ede Teller in Budapest, Hungary, into a well-to-do Jewish family. Teller’s father, Miksa (Max) Teller, was a sought-after lawyer who would have liked to have become a judge, but because of anti-Semitism, he could not. Teller’s mother, Ilona Deutsch Teller, played the piano and spoke multiple languages, and her main concern was the well-being of her children. Teller was initially educated at home. In ...

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Yalow, Rosalyn (19 July 1921–30 May 2011), medical physicist, was born Rosalyn Sussman in the Bronx, New York. Her mother, Clara (née Zipper), was born in Germany; her father, Simon Sussman, a wholesaler of packaging materials, moved his family from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to the Bronx, where his daughter stayed for most of her life. In girlhood Rosalyn contributed to the family wage by cutting out patterns for her uncle’s necktie business. Although neither of her parents went to college, she had ambitions to pursue a career in science. She learned to read before kindergarten, and when there were no books in the house, she checked them out of the public library. She attended Walton High School before entering Hunter College of the City University of New York. At Hunter, she saw guest lecturer Enrico Fermi speak on radioisotopes and urged administrators to inaugurate a physics major. The year was 1939; by January 1941 she had become the first student to complete the nascent physics program, graduating magna cum laude at the age of nineteen....