Solomon J. Buchsbaum almost didn’t make it. In the early 1940s, the Nazis rounded up all the Jews in his hometown of Stryj, Poland. At age 13, he was jailed along with his mother and sister.
Following the advice of his mother – who he’d never see again – Buchsbaum fled barefoot, eventually obtaining enough money to take the train to Warsaw. There, he found protection in a Catholic orphanage, reciting Mass and becoming an altar boy.
After the war, Buchsbaum emigrated to Canada and obtained scholarships to McGill University and MIT, where he pursued a doctorate.
In 1958, he started at Bell Laboratories as a researcher on gaseous and plasma solids, publishing 50 articles on discoveries that would contribute to the development of lasers and high-speed communication.
From there, he joined national advisory boards, eventually serving on – and occasionally chairing – White House science and research councils under numerous presidents.