THE EVICTION OF INTELLECT

Synopsis

Alfred Bader, Carl Djerassi, Walter Kohn and Peter Pulzer are Viennese-born and today they are world-famous scientists of great importance. Despite their old age they still work actively in scientific research and the implementation of their research findings in practice. The impact of their innovations will continue to shape the “technical and historical consciousness“ till far into the 21st century. However, their brilliant careers are marked by a traumatic start: due to their Jewish origins, the four scientists were expelled from Vienna in 1938/39 when they were still children and young people and had to establish their new lives abroad. What do they think about the loss of their home country today and what were, in their opinion,  the reasons for their scientific success? How could they realize their innovations and how are they put into practice?

Alfred Bader
Alfred Bader (born in Vienna on April 28, 1924)  – successful chemist, co-founder of the Aldrich Chemical Company and patron of arts and science – reveals the „ABCs“ in his autobiography that had the biggest influence on his life and its direction: “art, the Bible, and chemistry“. In December 1938, Alfred Bader left Vienna, being part of the first Kindertransport to England (later also known as Refugee Children’s Movement). Two years later he was declared an enemy alien and sent to a Canadian internment camp – where he was to be able to start his scientific career in the end: In 1941, he started to study Chemical Engineering  at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. A scholarship allowed him to continue his studies at Harvard, where he  specialised in Organic Chemistry. After his early scientific research, he co-founded the Aldrich Chemical Company in Milwaukee, today known as Sigma-Aldrich, the world's biggest supplier of research chemicals. His second big passion is art. His outstanding collection of paintings by 17th century Dutch masters is internationally renowned. The chemist, who has received numerous awards, has also founded several prizes, chairs and scholarships at different universities. Thanks to his donations, it was possible to reinstate the Ignaz L. Lieben-Prize at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW).


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Carl Djerassi
In his autobiography, he self-ironically calls himself the “mother of the pill“ and succinctly gets to the heart of his most important discovery. Carl Djerassi was born in Vienna on October 29, 1923. He had to leave his home town in 1938 because of his Jewish roots. After a short stay in Bulgaria, with his father, he emigrated to the US with his mother, where he started a brilliant career as a scientist. His most important accomplishment was the artificial production of norethisterone – the active substance of the contraceptive pill, which initiated one of the world’s greatest social achievements of the 20th century.
Moreover, he made his mark as a distinguished art collector. During the last two decades, Carl Djerassi discovered his love for literary writing and today he is an esteemed novelist and dramatist. In 2008, the grand art collector donated an important part of his outstanding Klee collection to the Albertina in Vienna, and today, he partly lives in his home town again.

 


Walter Kohn
In 1998, Walther Kohn was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry for the development of the density functional theory. Up to this very day he still actively participates in the research at his university in Santa Barbara, California. His greatest concern is to make full use of solar energy in order to solve the world's energy problems. Walter Kohn was born in Vienna on March 9, 1923. His father ran a publishing house for postcards, Brüder Kohn [Brothers Kohn], which was Aryanised in 1938. In 1939, Walter Kohn left his hometown for Great Britain, being part of one of the last Kindertransporte of the Refugee Children’s Movement. In a roundabout way - that led him to the front as a Canadian soldier  amongst other things – he  eventually got to Harvard, where he received a doctorate in Theoretical Physics. Since the 1960s, the Nobel Prize winner has lived in California. He is still very much involved with the University of Santa Barbara and feels his function today is to generalise his theories and put them into practice.

Peter Pulzer
In 1964, the world-famous historian published his most extensive work, The rise of political anti-semitism in Germany & Austria [Die Entstehung des politischen Antisemitismus in Deutschland und Österreich 1867–1914“]. To this very day it is regarded as a standard work in research of  anti-Semitism. Peter Pulzer, who was born in Vienna on May 20, 1929, emigrated to Great Britain in 1939, together with his family. He studied History at the University of Cambridge, where he received a doctor's degree in 1960. In 1984, he was appointed to a chair at the University of Harvard, where he worked until he was given emeritus status in 1996. Today he is chairman of the Leo Baeck Institute in London, the most important independent archive and research centre devoted to the study of the history and culture of German-speaking Jewry. It consists of three institutions - in Jerusalem, London and New York.

 

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