Isidor Isaac Rabi, Nobel Prize winner who laid the foundations for the laser, maser, atomic clock and magnetic resonance imaging

Isidor Isaac Rabi

July 29, 1898, in Rymanów (Poland) – January 11, 1988, in Manhattan, New York (United States)

Despite being born in Poland (in 1898, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), when he was one year old, his parents moved to New York (United States).

In 1919 he graduated in Chemistry from Cornell University and, in 1927, obtained his doctorate from Columbia University for a thesis on the magnetic properties of crystals. Two years later, he was appointed teaching assistant at said University.

At the beginning of the 1930s, he began to practice his profession in the field of Nuclear Physics through a research project related to the effects of magnetic fields on the nucleus of particles, devising a method of magnetic resonance that allowed the study of the magnetic properties and the internal structure of molecules, atoms and nuclei. From these studies it was possible to develop applications such as the laser, the maser, the atomic clock or the magnetic resonance used in medical diagnoses.

Together with Otto Stern, they developed new methods of observing spectra based on molecular beam and atomic magnetic resonance that paved the way for accurately determining the magnetic properties of atomic molecules or nuclei, calculating the magnetic moment of the electron, and testing the power of the theory of quantum electrodynamics.

Rabi improved the method by increasing the accuracy of the measurements by a factor of 100 and discovered that the magnetic moments of atoms are due to twists in the orbits and/or proper rotations (spin) of the electrons surrounding the atomic nuclei.

In 1937, he began to work as a professor of Physics at Columbia University.

Between 1940 and 1945, he worked as associate director of the Radiation Laboratory of the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the development of radar. Once this period of time was over, he returned to the Department of Physics at Columbia University.

In 1944 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the resonance method thanks to which it is possible to verify the record of the magnetic properties of atoms.

From 1946, for 10 years, he was a member of the Commission for Atomic Energy, was one of the founders of the Brookhaven Laboratory and the chairman of the General Advisory Committee attached to the UNESCO delegation that founded the well-known European Organization for Nuclear Research. (CERN).

In 1960, he wrote the book “My time and my life as a physicist”.

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