Home Science & TechScience Jack Steinberger, Nobel Winner in Physics, Dies at 99

Jack Steinberger, Nobel Winner in Physics, Dies at 99

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Normally, an experiment at the Brookhaven accelerator — the world’s largest at the time — was completed in a few hours. The neutrino experiment consumed 800 hours over eight months, a measure of the importance attached to the project. A year after it was finished, the European Council for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, confirmed the results.

Hans Jakob Steinberger was born on May 25, 1921, in Bad Kissingen in Bavaria, Germany, one of three sons of Ludwig and Berta Steinberger. His father was a cantor and religious teacher to the town’s small Jewish community; his college-educated mother supplemented the family income by giving English and French lessons.

With the rise of the Nazis and the enactment of laws barring Jewish children from attending public schools and from seeking higher education, his parents arranged for him and his older brother to go to the United States with the help of the American Jewish charities, which had offered to find homes for 300 German refugee children.

Soon, Dr. Steinberger wrote in a biographical sketch for the Nobel Foundation, “we were on the S.S. Washington, bound for New York, Christmas 1934.”

The brothers were placed in separate but nearby foster homes in the Chicago area. Jack settled into the home of a wealthy grain broker named Barnett Faroll, who several years later arranged for the boys’ parents and younger brother to join them in Chicago, rescuing them from the Holocaust, Dr. Steinberger wrote.

The family soon began operating a small delicatessen in Chicago.

After graduating from New Trier Township High School in suburban Winnetka, Ill., Dr. Steinberger won a scholarship to the Armour Institute of Technology (now the Illinois Institute of Technology), where he studied chemical engineering.

The scholarship expired after two years, and he found a job washing bottles at a chemical laboratory for $18 a week. He studied chemistry at the University of Chicago in the evenings and worked at the family store on weekends. The university later awarded him a scholarship that allowed him to give up his day job. He graduated in 1942 with a bachelor’s degree in physics.

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