A second Jew from an Arab country in the space of five years has won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Serge Haroche had to sit down on a bench in order to take in the news from the Swedish committee. Now living in France, he is the son of a Moroccan Jew from Casablanca, where he was born. But let’s also credit the influence of his Ashkenazi mother, a teacher born in Russia. The Times of Israel reports:
Update: Haroche is actually the third North African Jew to have won a Nobel Prize for Science: Diana Muir-Applebaum has the low downon Baruj Benacerraf, who won the Nobel for Medicine and Physiology in 1980.
Serge Haroche, a French-Jewish physicist, has won the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with David Wineland from the United States.
The 2012 prize went to the scientists “for
ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and
manipulation of individual quantum systems,” the website of the Nobel
According to the BBC, the pair developed
solutions to pick, manipulate and measure photons and ions individually,
allowing an insight into a microscopic world that was once just the
province of scientific theory.
Haroche, who was born 68 years ago in
Casablanca, Morocco, told Le Figaro that he “had a hard time
understanding” the news when a representative of the Nobel Prize
committee called him on his cellular phone to say he had won what is
considered the highest form of recognition of scientific excellence.
Haroche, of Collège de France and Ecole
Normale Supérieure, will share a $1.2 million grant from the Nobel Prize
Committee with Wineland, a researcher at the Maryland-based National
Institute of Standards and Technology and at the University of Colorado.
Haroche gave a series of lectures on quantum physics at the Technion last year.
Le Figaro quoted him saying he was walking
with his wife down the street when he received the call from Sweden. He
said he had to sit down on a bench before passing on the news to family.
Richard Prasquier, the president of CRIF, the
umbrella organization of France’s Jewish communities, told JTA: “The
achievement belongs to the scientists, but a small part of me is also
proud today.” Mutual friends described Haroche to Prasquier as “a truly
brilliant thinker, known for his creativity,” Prasquier said.
Prasquier noted that Haroche had worked
closely with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji – also a French Jew of North African
descent – who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997.
The Algeria-born Cohen-Tannoudji, 79, is still an active researcher at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris.