Hall of Fame for Great Americans Elects First Two Jewish Members

The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at New York University has its first Jewish members in its 70-year history. Dr. Albert Abraham Michelson (1852-1931), the first American scientist to win a Nobel Prize, and Lillian D. Wald (1867-1940), the founder of the Henry Street Settlement, were announced today as the 1970 electees. They were the only two chosen from a list of 196 nominees, all dead for at least 25 years. The nominees not elected included Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis; philanthropists Haym Salomon and Jacob H. Schiff; publishers Adolph S. Ochs and Joseph Pulitzer; scientist Charles P. Steinmetz; pianist and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold. With a majority of the 110 votes cast required for election, Dr. Michelson received 81; Miss Wald had received 67 by today, with three ballots still not received. Miss Wald, who was born in Cincinnati, was the granddaughter of a German Jewish immigrant. Educated in Rochester, N.Y., and at the Women’s Medical College in New York, she turned to social work after viewing slum conditions on the East Side.

With the aid of Jacob Schiff, Miss Wald obtained an apartment on Henry Street that was to become her famed settlement house for aid to immigrants. As a result of her efforts there, President Theodore Roosevelt created the Federal Children’s Bureau in 1908. On her 70th birthday she was lauded over national radio by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gov. Herbert H. Lehman. She always maintained an interest in Jewish affairs. Dr. Michelson was born in Germany and grew up in California. After giving up hope for an appointment to Annapolis, he was named to an “appointment at large” by President Ulysses S. Grant, and thereafter maintained that his career was started by an illegal Presidential act. After graduation from the Naval Academy in 1873, he became an instructor there, and by the age of 26 was an internationally known physicist on the basis of his work in light velocity. In 1887, aged 35, he developed his famed interferometer for measuring the velocity of the earth. In 1898 he developed the echelon spectroscope, a major reason for his being awarded the Nobel Physics Prize for 1907. He was not given religious training as a child, and throughout his life disdained Judaism and Jewish community affairs.

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