Photo of Jack Steinberger

Jack Steinberger

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For his incisive illumination of the properties of subnuclear particles, including exhaustive measurements of strange particles, neutral kaons, and high energy neutrino interactions.

Physicist Jack Steinberger’s career in science nearly ended before it even began.

Steinberger’s childhood coincided with the Nazi’s rise to power in the 1930s. Had he remained in his home country of Germany as a teen, the future scientist would have been unable to attend high school and would never have made it to college.

During this time, United States charities offered to take in and care for Jewish children from Germany. Steinberger and his older brother left their home and family for Chicago, Illinois in 1934.

Steinberger’s U.S. host helped his parents and younger brother flee Germany in 1938 and the family settled in Illinois, where Steinberger began his scientific studies.

While working with neutrinos — subatomic particles with no electric charge or mass — at Columbia University in 1962, Steinberger and two of his colleagues discovered a new type of neutrino. The group made its discovery by using a high-energy accelerator to create a beam of neutrinos.

Today, their groundbreaking technique is used in even the most basic experiments.

By Rachel Warren