Strong Bonds: Friendships in Physics

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May 28, 2020

Strong Bonds: Friendships in Physics

May Photos of the Month

During this time of a pandemic crisis and physical distancing, we are reminded more than ever of the important relationships in our lives. Whether you are finding new, virtual ways to connect with friends or counting the days until you can once again embrace, I think we can all appreciate this digital photo album of scientific friendships.

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Caption: William Paul and Richard Zallen at Harvard semiconductor-group picnic, 1961.

Credit: Steven H. Groves, courtesy of AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Zallen Collection

I love this photograph from our Zallen Collection. In the early 1960s, Richard Zallen worked under William Paul at Harvard’s Gordon McKay Lab studying semiconductor properties. Their friendship continued for over 40 years, which you can see in many photos in this collection, including this one from a celebration of William Paul in 2002! 

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Caption: 'The Four Horsemen' in October 1969. Clockwise from lower-left: Walter Brattain, Everly Workman, Vladimir Rojansky, and Walker Bleakney.

Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Brattain Collection

Walter H. Brattain, Walker Bleakney, Vladimir Rojansky, and Everly Workman graduated from Whitman College together in 1924. Known as ‘The Four Horsemen of Physics,’ they all went on to have success in the field of physics. You can read more about their friendship at Whitman and in the years after in Walter Brattain’s oral history interview.

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Caption: Val and Lia Telegdi (third and fourth from left, respectively) pose with an unidentified group outdoors at a ski lodge in Verbier, Switzerland, in January 1960.

Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Telegdi Collection, gift of Judith Goodstein

Valentine Telegdi contributed greatly to the physics academic and research community but from the photos shared in our Telegdi Collection, it’s evident that he always made time for friends, family, travel, and…his cats!

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Caption: Hedwig Kohn walking with Frau Senftleben, Bergmann and Frau Bergmann.

Credit: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, gift of Dr. Wilhelm Tappe, Kohn Photo Collection

Browsing through the Kohn Photo Collection, you can see that Hedwig Kohn enjoyed spending leisure and social time outdoors. Here she is with fellow German physicist Peter Bergmann.

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Caption: Robert Oppenheimer, Isidor Rabi, H. M. Mott-Smith, and Wolfgang Pauli at Lake Zurich, Switzerland.

Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Fermi Film Collection


Isidor Rabi and Robert Oppenheimer developed a friendship through their work on projects such as the Manhattan Project. In his oral history interview from December 8, 1963, Rabi speaks fondly of his friendships among the physics community.

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About the Author:

Liz Holdzkom is the Archival Intern at Niels Bohr Library & Archives. She holds a B.A. in Journalism from Elon University in North Carolina, and is currently preparing to graduate from the University of Maryland-College Park with a Master's in Library and Information Science. For her final semester in graduate school, Liz worked with the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives to prepare for the migration to a new management system.

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