Abraham Pais

Abraham Pais

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Abraham Pais (May 19, 1918, Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 — July 28, 2000, Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

, Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

) was a Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

-born American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 and science historian. Pais earned his Ph.D. from University of Utrecht just prior to a Nazi ban on Jewish
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 participation in Dutch universities during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. When the Nazis began the forced relocation of Dutch Jews, he went into hiding, but was later arrested and saved only by the end of the war. He then served as an assistant to Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

 in Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 and was later a colleague of Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 at the Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study
The Institute for Advanced Study, located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States, is an independent postgraduate center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. It was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner...

 in Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton is a community located in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States. It is best known as the location of Princeton University, which has been sited in the community since 1756...

. Pais wrote books documenting the lives of these two great physicists and the contributions they and others made to modern physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

. He was a physics professor at Rockefeller University
Rockefeller University
The Rockefeller University is a private university offering postgraduate and postdoctoral education. It has a strong concentration in the biological sciences. It is also known for producing numerous Nobel laureates...

 until his retirement.

Early life


Pais was born in Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, the first child of middle-class Dutch Jewish parents. His father, Isaiah "Jacques" Pais, was the descendant of Sephardic Jews who migrated from Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 to the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

 around the beginning of the 17th century. His mother, Kaatje "Cato" van Kleeff, was the daughter of an Ashkenazi diamond cutter. His parents met while studying to become elementary-school teachers. They both taught school until his mother quit when they married on December 2, 1916. His only sibling, Annie, was born on November 1, 1920. During Pais's childhood his father was an elementary schoolmaster, headmaster, and later the headmaster of the Sephardic Hebrew school.

Pais was a bright student and a voracious reader during his early education and said he had a happy childhood and felt integrated in Dutch society. At age twelve he passed examinations to enter a higher burgher school and attended a school in Amsterdam with a five-year curriculum of basic subjects. He passed his final examinations as number one in his class. He graduated with a working knowledge of English, French, and German.

Higher education


In the fall of 1935 Pais began his studies at the University of Amsterdam without a clear idea regarding his desired career. With an interest in the exact sciences, he gradually gravitated to chemistry and physics as major subjects, and mathematics and astronomy as minor subjects. In the winter of 1936/1937 his career goals were defined by two guest lectures by George Uhlenbeck, professor of theoretical physics at University of Utrecht. Pais was fascinated by Uhlenbeck's discussion of Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi was an Italian-born, naturalized American physicist particularly known for his work on the development of the first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, and for his contributions to the development of quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics...

's incorporation of the neutrino
Neutrino
A neutrino is an electrically neutral, weakly interacting elementary subatomic particle with a half-integer spin, chirality and a disputed but small non-zero mass. It is able to pass through ordinary matter almost unaffected...

 into the theory of beta radiation.

On February 16, 1938, Pais was awarded two Bachelor of Science degrees in physics and mathematics, with minors in chemistry and astronomy. He began attending graduate courses in Amsterdam, including those in physics. He soon became disappointed by the only professor there in theoretical physics, Johannes Diderik van der Waals, Jr. (the son of the 1910 Nobel laureate Johannes Diderik van der Waals
Johannes Diderik van der Waals
Johannes Diderik van der Waals was a Dutch theoretical physicist and thermodynamicist famous for his work on an equation of state for gases and liquids....

), whom he found dull and averse to the new developments in physics. Pais soon wrote to Uhlenbeck at Utrecht and was granted an interview. During the remainder of the spring term he discontinued attending classes in Amsterdam and made several trips to visit Uhlenbeck in his laboratory.

In the fall of 1938 Pais enrolled for graduate classes at University of Utrecht. Uhlenbeck, however, spent that term as a visiting professor at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. He left Pais with the use of his laboratory and a list of topics to study and work on. Pais was soon exposed to other prominent Dutch physicists and areas of research in experimental physics. He became well-acquainted with Hendrik Casimir
Hendrik Casimir
Hendrik Brugt Gerhard Casimir FRS was a Dutch physicist best known for his research on the two-fluid model of superconductors in 1934 and the Casimir effect Hendrik Brugt Gerhard Casimir FRS (July 15, 1909 in The Hague, Netherlands – May 4, 2000 in Heeze) was a Dutch physicist best known...

, a physics professor at Leiden University
Leiden University
Leiden University , located in the city of Leiden, is the oldest university in the Netherlands. The university was founded in 1575 by William, Prince of Orange, leader of the Dutch Revolt in the Eighty Years' War. The royal Dutch House of Orange-Nassau and Leiden University still have a close...

 who lectured at Utrecht twice a week on quantum physics. When Uhlenbeck returned from America, he brought news of a meeting he had attended in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, in which Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

 and Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi was an Italian-born, naturalized American physicist particularly known for his work on the development of the first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, and for his contributions to the development of quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics...

 had first made public their news about nuclear fission
Nuclear fission
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts , often producing free neutrons and photons , and releasing a tremendous amount of energy...

. Uhlenbeck also announced that he would be leaving in the summer of 1939 for a professorship at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

.

In the fall of 1939 Pais dedicated himself to preparing for his master's degree. Utrecht experimental physicist Leonard Salomon Ornstein provided him guidance in his independent physics studies. Uhlenbeck, in anticipation of his departure, introduced Pais to physicist Hendrik Anthony Kramers
Hendrik Anthony Kramers
Hendrik Anthony "Hans" Kramers was a Dutch physicist.-Background and education:...

 at Leiden University, who became his mentor and friend. He was also influenced then by discussions with Léon Rosenfeld
Léon Rosenfeld
Léon Rosenfeld was a Belgian physicist. He obtained a PhD at the University of Liège in 1926, and he was a collaborator of the physicist Niels Bohr. He did early work in quantum electrodynamics that predates by two decades the work by Dirac and Bergmann. He coined the name lepton...

 of the University of Liège
University of Liège
The University of Liège , in Liège, Wallonia, Belgium, is a major public university in the French Community of Belgium. Its official language is French.-History:...

, who was invited to Utrecht to give a colloquium in an effort to find a successor for Uhlenbeck and reported of the work he was then doing with Christian Møller
Christian Møller
Christian Møller was a Danish chemist and physicist who made fundamental contributions to the theory of relativity, theory of gravitation and quantum chemistry...

 on the meson theory of nuclear forces.

Pais successfully passed the examination for his master's degree on April 22, 1940. On May 7 the Dutch minister of education appointed Rosenfeld to succeed Uhlenbeck at the University of Utrecht. On May 8 Pais wrote to Rosenfeld at Liège to ask if he might continue his studies under him if his appointment came through, and again on May 9 to congratulate him on his appointment. On May 10, 1940, the Germans invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, disrupting the mail between Utrecht and Liège for months.

After mail service was restored, Pais again wrote to Rosenfeld in Liège. In the meantime Pais had been appointed as Rosenfeld's assistant — Kees van Lier, who had been Uhlenbeck's assistant and was to continue as such under Rosenfeld, had committed suicide following the German invasion. Rosenfeld approved of his appointment and arrived at Utrecht in September 1940 and Pais began working on his doctoral dissertation.

Rosenfeld proposed that for his thesis Pais should formulate Rosenfeld and Møller's meson theory in terms of the five-dimensional space known as projective relativity theory, and then to use this theory to calculate the probability for the disintegration of deuterons when irradiated by energetic photons. Pais set to work studying projective relativity, meson theories, and nuclear physics related to the deuteron.

In November 1940 the German authorities issued a decree banning Jews from all civil service positions, including academic posts. Pais therefore lost his assistant professorship, though Rosenfeld secretly arranged for his successor to unofficially share the responsibilities and salary of the position with Pais. Professor Leonard Ornstein, however, lost his directorship of and access to the laboratory and died a broken man on May 20, 1941. A subsequent German decree ordered that doctorate degrees could not be issued to Jews after June 14, 1941. Pais worked feverishly to complete his dissertation and meet other requirements for his doctorate. He obtained his doctoral degree in theoretical physics
Theoretical physics
Theoretical physics is a branch of physics which employs mathematical models and abstractions of physics to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena...

 on June 9, just five days before the deadline. His was the last Ph.D. issued to a Dutch Jew until after the war.

German occupation


During his student years Pais had been involved in the Zionist movement
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

, through which he became acquainted with Trusha (Tirtsah) van Amerongen and Tina (Tineke) Strobos
Tina Strobos
Tina Strobos is a retired physician and child psychiatrist who, while a medical student during World War II living in Amsterdam, helped shelter more than 100 Jewish refugees as part of the Dutch resistance during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands...

, and developed a close friendship with these two women and their families.

The Germans began to gradually restrict the activities of the Dutch Jews and in early 1942 required them to wear yellow stars. At first Pais felt safe because his former university status exempted him from being sent to a labor camp. In early 1943, however, the Dutch secretary general of internal affairs, Frederiks, made arrangements for the university Jews to report to Barneveld
Barneveld
Barneveld is a town and a municipality in the province of Gelderland in the center of the Netherlands. It is known for its poultry industry and large protestant community. The population of the municipality was 52.629 in June 2010, the town having a population of 29.756.-Transport:Barneveld is...

 for their own safety, where they would be housed in a chateau. Pais did not trust that and instead went into hiding. Those who reported to Barneveld were later sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp
Theresienstadt concentration camp
Theresienstadt concentration camp was a Nazi German ghetto during World War II. It was established by the Gestapo in the fortress and garrison city of Terezín , located in what is now the Czech Republic.-History:The fortress of Terezín was constructed between the years 1780 and 1790 by the orders...

 where most of them did survive.

His friend Tina Strobos was not Jewish and thus was free of restrictions and threat of incarceration. She arranged hiding places for Pais and other Jews in Amsterdam. The Germans began forcing the Dutch Jews into a ghetto in the old Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, his sister Annie and her husband Hermann complied. Tina found them a place to hide, but despite Pais's urgent pleas for them to take advantage of it, they didn't think it necessary. Annie was later killed at the Sobibór extermination camp
Sobibór extermination camp
Sobibor was a Nazi German extermination camp located on the outskirts of the town of Sobibór, Lublin Voivodeship of occupied Poland as part of Operation Reinhard; the official German name was SS-Sonderkommando Sobibor...

. Tina had found refuge for Pais's parents on a farm outside Amsterdam where they survived the war. She also acted as a courier between Pais and his parents during the war, though neither knew of the other's specific location.

His last hiding place was in an apartment with his university friend Lion Nordheim, his wife Jeanne, and her sister Trusha van Amerongen. In the course of his hiding he kept in touch with the scientific community through visits at his hiding place by Hendrik Anthony Kramers and Lambertus Broer
Lambertus Johannes Folkert Broer
Lambertus Johannes Folkert "Bert" Broer was a Dutch physicist and mathematician.- External links :...

. Jeanne and Trusha had blond hair and blue eyes and ventured out in public as non-Jews, while Lion and Pais hid in the apartment. In March 1945, however, they were betrayed and all four were arrested. The same week the Americans had crossed the Rhine and cut the rail lines, making impossible their transfer to a concentration camp. The women were soon released. After a month of interrogation by the Gestapo, Pais was released several days before the end of the war. Nordheim was executed ten days before the end of the war.

Career in particle physics


During World War II, Pais's doctoral dissertation had attracted the attention of Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

, who invited him to come to Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 as his assistant. Pais was forced into hiding before he could leave the Netherlands. In 1946, following the war, Pais was able to accept that invitation and served as a personal assistant to Bohr at his country home in Tisvilde
Tisvilde
Tisvilde is a small town with a population of 1,531 located on the north coast of the island Zealand in Denmark north of Copenhagen....

 for a year.

In 1947 he accepted a position at the Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study
The Institute for Advanced Study, located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States, is an independent postgraduate center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. It was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and thus became a colleague of Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

.

For the next 25 years he worked on elementary particle
Elementary particle
In particle physics, an elementary particle or fundamental particle is a particle not known to have substructure; that is, it is not known to be made up of smaller particles. If an elementary particle truly has no substructure, then it is one of the basic building blocks of the universe from which...

 theory with a primary interest in quantum field theory
Quantum field theory
Quantum field theory provides a theoretical framework for constructing quantum mechanical models of systems classically parametrized by an infinite number of dynamical degrees of freedom, that is, fields and many-body systems. It is the natural and quantitative language of particle physics and...

 and symmetry
Symmetry in physics
In physics, symmetry includes all features of a physical system that exhibit the property of symmetry—that is, under certain transformations, aspects of these systems are "unchanged", according to a particular observation...

. The technical contributions for which he is recognized include a precise definition of G-parity
G-parity
In theoretical physics, G-parity is a multiplicative quantum number that results from the generalization of C-parity to multiplets of particles....

 with Res Jost
Res Jost
Res Jost in Zurich) was a Swiss theoretical physicist, who worked mainly in constructive quantum field theory.-Life and work:...

, and his treatment of SU(6) symmetry breaking
Symmetry breaking
Symmetry breaking in physics describes a phenomenon where small fluctuations acting on a system which is crossing a critical point decide the system's fate, by determining which branch of a bifurcation is taken. To an outside observer unaware of the fluctuations , the choice will appear arbitrary...

.

He is primarily associated with two concepts that directly contributed to major breakthroughs in his field. The first was the idea of "associated production" to explain the puzzling properties of strange particles. His ideas and those of Murray Gell-Mann
Murray Gell-Mann
Murray Gell-Mann is an American physicist and linguist who received the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles...

 resulted in the idea of a quantum number
Quantum number
Quantum numbers describe values of conserved quantities in the dynamics of the quantum system. Perhaps the most peculiar aspect of quantum mechanics is the quantization of observable quantities. This is distinguished from classical mechanics where the values can range continuously...

 called strangeness
Strangeness
In particle physics, strangeness S is a property of particles, expressed as a quantum number, for describing decay of particles in strong and electromagnetic reactions, which occur in a short period of time...

. The second concept was Pais's and Gell-Mann's theory regarding the composition of the long-lived neutral kaon
Kaon
In particle physics, a kaon is any one of a group of four mesons distinguished by the fact that they carry a quantum number called strangeness...

 (KL), which challenged the classical notion of a particle, but was later proven essentially correct.

In 1956, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

In 1963 Pais accepted a position at Rockefeller University
Rockefeller University
The Rockefeller University is a private university offering postgraduate and postdoctoral education. It has a strong concentration in the biological sciences. It is also known for producing numerous Nobel laureates...

 to head the theoretical physics group while Rockefeller was in transition from being a medical institute to a university. He finished his career there as the Detlev W. Bronk professor emeritus.

Science historian


In the late 1970s Pais became interested in documenting the history of modern physics. He felt he was in a unique position to do so, having known many of the key people and with his knowledge of the language, culture, and science.

Pais was perhaps best known for his biography
Biography
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

 of Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

, "Subtle is the Lord—": The science and the life of Albert Einstein (Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

, 1982), and its sequel, Einstein Lived Here (Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press, 1994). "Subtle is the Lord—" received the 1983 National Book Award for Science.

His Inward Bound: Of matter and forces in the physical world (Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press, 1988) describes the events in physics during the preceding 100 years, and tries to explain why they happened as they did.

In 1991 he published Niels Bohr's Times: In physics, philosophy, and polity (Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press, 1991) which describes the life and scientific contributions of Bohr.

In 1995 he teamed with Laurie M. Brown and Sir Brian Pippard
Brian Pippard
Sir Alfred Brian Pippard, ScD, FRS , was a British physicist. He was Cavendish Professor of Physics from 1971 until 1984 and an Honorary Fellow of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, of which he was the first President...

 to compile a three-volume reference collection of articles portraying the scientific and cultural development of modern physics in Twentieth Century Physics (American Institute of Physics
American Institute of Physics
The American Institute of Physics promotes science, the profession of physics, publishes physics journals, and produces publications for scientific and engineering societies. The AIP is made up of various member societies...

 and the Institute of Physics
Institute of Physics
The Institute of Physics is a scientific charity devoted to increasing the practice, understanding and application of physics. It has a worldwide membership of around 40,000....

, U.K., 1995). That same year Rockefeller University awarded him the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science
Lewis Thomas Prize
The Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, named for its first recipient, Lewis Thomas, is an annual literary prize awarded by Rockefeller University to scientists deemed to have accomplished a significant literary achievement: it "recognizes scientists as poets"...

.

A Tale of Two Continents: A physicist's life in a turbulent world (Princeton University Press
Princeton University Press
-Further reading:* "". Artforum International, 2005.-External links:* * * * *...

, 1997) was his autobiography. It refers to the 'esemplastic power of the imagination'.

His book The Genius of Science: A portrait gallery (Oxford University Press, 2000) contains biographies of twelve distinguished physicists he had known personally, including Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, OM, FRS was an English theoretical physicist who made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics...

, Max Born
Max Born
Max Born was a German-born physicist and mathematician who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics. He also made contributions to solid-state physics and optics and supervised the work of a number of notable physicists in the 1920s and 30s...

, Wolfgang Pauli
Wolfgang Pauli
Wolfgang Ernst Pauli was an Austrian theoretical physicist and one of the pioneers of quantum physics. In 1945, after being nominated by Albert Einstein, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his "decisive contribution through his discovery of a new law of Nature, the exclusion principle or...

, Mitchell Feigenbaum
Mitchell Feigenbaum
Mitchell Jay Feigenbaum is a mathematical physicist whose pioneering studies in chaos theory led to the discovery of the Feigenbaum constants.- Biography :...

, John von Neumann
John von Neumann
John von Neumann was a Hungarian-American mathematician and polymath who made major contributions to a vast number of fields, including set theory, functional analysis, quantum mechanics, ergodic theory, geometry, fluid dynamics, economics and game theory, computer science, numerical analysis,...

, Res Jost
Res Jost
Res Jost in Zurich) was a Swiss theoretical physicist, who worked mainly in constructive quantum field theory.-Life and work:...

, Isidor Rabi, Victor Weisskopf, and Eugene Wigner.

Pais was working on a biography of Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Oppenheimer
Julius Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist and professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Along with Enrico Fermi, he is often called the "father of the atomic bomb" for his role in the Manhattan Project, the World War II project that developed the first...

 at the time of his death. It was finished by Robert P. Crease
Robert P. Crease
Robert P. Crease is a philosopher and historian of science. He writes a monthly column, "Critical Point ", for the international physics magazine Physics World....

 and published posthumously as J. Robert Oppenheimer: A life (Oxford University Press, 2006). It is the most complete biography of Oppenheimer to date.

The American Physical Society
American Physical Society
The American Physical Society is the world's second largest organization of physicists, behind the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft. The Society publishes more than a dozen scientific journals, including the world renowned Physical Review and Physical Review Letters, and organizes more than 20...

 has awarded an Abraham Pais Prize for History of Physics
Abraham Pais Prize for History of Physics
The Abraham Pais Prize for History of Physics is an award given each year since 2005 jointly by the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics for "outstanding scholarly achievements in the history of physics"...

 annually since 2005.

Later life


After his retirement Pais and his third wife Ida Nicolaisen spent half their time in Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 where he worked at the Niels Bohr Institute
Niels Bohr Institute
The Niels Bohr Institute is a research institute of the University of Copenhagen. The research of the institute spans astronomy, geophysics, nanotechnology, particle physics, quantum mechanics and biophysics....

.

His son Josh Pais
Josh Pais
Josh Pais is an American actor of film and television.He has appeared in many Hollywood films, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Raphael, Music of the Heart, Scream 3, It Runs in the Family, Little Manhattan and Find Me Guilty. He played Assistant M.E...

 http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0656929/ is an American actor.

Pais died of heart failure in Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

.

Obituary

  • Martinus J. G. Veltman
    Martinus J. G. Veltman
    Martinus Justinus Godefriedus Veltman is a Dutch theoretical physicist. He shared the 1999 Nobel Prize in physics with his former student Gerardus 't Hooft for their work on particle theory.-Biography:...

    , Abraham Pais, Levensberichten en herdenkingen (Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, 2002), pp. 51–56. ISBN 90-6984-343-9 http://www.knaw.nl/publicaties/pdf/20011094.pdf