|Institutions||David Sarnoff Research Center, Exxon Research and Engineering, Annandale, New Jersey.|
|Alma mater||Charles University in Prague, Czech Technical University in Prague|
|Thesis||The Galvanomagnetic Effects in Bismuth and Bi-Sn Alloys (1955)|
|Notable awards||1979 Stuart Ballantine Medal|
Benjamin Abeles (born 1925) is a physicist whose research in the 1960s in the USA on germanium-silicon alloys led to the technology used to power space probes such as the Voyager spacecraft. He grew up in Austria and Czechoslovakia, arriving in the UK in 1939 on one of the kindertransport missions. He completed his education after the war in Czechoslovakia and Israel (from 1949), obtaining a doctorate in physics. He then lived and worked as a research physicist in the USA, retiring in 1995. His honours include the 1979 Stuart Ballantine Medal and his induction into the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame (1991).
Early life and education
Born in Vienna in 1925, Abeles lived in Czechoslovakia from 1934. In July 1939, aged 14, he was one of hundreds of Jewish children brought from Prague to London through the efforts of British humanitarian Nicholas Winton, an example of the various kindertransport missions that saved many such children from the impending dangers of World War II and the Holocaust. Aged 15 he worked as a waiter and took correspondence courses in English, mathematics, physics and chemistry. At the age of 18, Abeles served as a mechanic in the war as part of No. 311 Squadron RAF. After the war he returned to Czechoslovakia and studied at Charles University in Prague and Czech Technical University in Prague, before moving to Israel in 1949 to study for his doctorate in Jerusalem. His thesis, published in 1955, was titled 'The Galvanomagnetic Effects in Bismuth and Bi-Sn Alloys'.
Following the award of his PhD, Abeles worked in Israel on germanium electronics before moving to the USA to carry out research in Princeton for the Radio Corporation of America. During his career, Abeles worked at both the David Sarnoff Research Center and at Exxon Research and Engineering in Annandale, New Jersey. He lived with his family in Princeton and commuted to the Exxon research centre. Working with George D. Cody in the 1960s, Abeles developed germanium-silicon alloys that were used in the development of the radioisotope thermoelectric generators used to power spacecraft and probes engaged in long voyages of space exploration. Abeles also worked as a professor at the University of Texas.
Recognition and later life
For their work, Abeles and Cody received the 1979 Stuart Ballantine Medal (Engineering) from the Franklin Institute, and were inducted into the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame in 1991. Abeles's 65th birthday in 1990 was marked by a symposium in his honour: 'Physical Phenomena in Granular Materials'. Abeles retired in 1995. He has lived in England as well as travelling in Europe and returning to the USA where his children and grandchildren live. His interests include a range of courses enrolled on as part of the University of the Third Age.
- "Wintonovo dítě vyvinulo zdroj energie pro kosmické sondy". lidovky.cz. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- "התופעות הגלונומגנטיות בביסמוט ונתכי ביסמוט-בדיל". Weizmann Institute of Science. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- "1991 Award Winners". New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- "Franklin Laureate Database: Benjamin Abeles". Franklin Institute. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- "Physical phenomena in granular materials: symposium held April 16-20, 1990, San Francisco, California, U.S.A". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- Account of silicon-germanium thermoelectric power invention, includes photograph of Abeles (Chemical Heritage Foundation)
- 'Nicky's Family' reveals legacy of human compassion, review of documentary on the kindertransport children including Abeles (ceskapozice.cz)
- Czech-language interview with Abeles in 2011 (lidovky.cz)