cover image Rabi, Scientist and Citizen

Rabi, Scientist and Citizen

John S. Rigden. Basic Books, $21.95 (302pp) ISBN 978-0-465-06792-3

This biography by the editor of American Review of Physics makes amends for the neglect of a man today esteemed, at 88, as the dean of American physics. Isadore Isaac Rabi rose from Brooklyn-ghetto beginnings to become a key figure among the Americans of the 1920s and '30s who helped shape quantum theory and in doing so made American physics equal to the European scene. Here is a satisfying, sympathetic portrait of a modest, brilliant scientist who regards his calling as ""sacred,'' a religious exploration of ``one God,'' the God being nature. Readers will treasure equally the story of Rabi's molecular-beam experimentswhich earned him the Nobel Prize in 1944and a gallery of revealing glimpses of his scientist friends, chief among them J. Robert Oppenheimer, whose historic role in managing the Manhattan Project overshadowed Rabi's work on radar at MITwhich Rigden pointedly credits with truly winning WW II. Photos. (April 13)