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Gertrude Scharff Goldhaber

During a career limited time and again by her gender, her religion, and her marital status, physicist Gertrude Scharff Goldhaber helped ensure other women scientists would not face the same hurdles. Goldhaber remained in Germany long enough to earn her PhD from the University of Munich in 1935, then fled to England, where she found no jobs for foreigners. She married Maurice Goldhaber in 1939 and immigrated to the US, where he taught at the University of Illinois, Urbana. There, barred from a university position by nepotism rules, she worked instead as her husband’s unpaid assistant. She was the first to directly observe spontaneous fission of neutrons, and was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1947. Finally, in 1950, the couple both accepted positions at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York, where she founded the Brookhaven Lecture Series in 1960 and created a training institute for science and math teachers. In 1972 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and served on their Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, pushing to end artificial barriers for women in the sciences. Forced to retire at age 66, Goldhaber continued to collaborate with other scientists whenever possible.

Topics: Teachers, Physics

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Nuclear physicist Gertrude Goldhaber.
AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives.
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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Gertrude Scharff Goldhaber." (Viewed on November 27, 2020) <https://jwa.org/people/goldhaber-gertrude>.


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