Jerrold R. Zacharias

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Jerrold Reinach Zacharias
BornJanuary 23, 1905
DiedJuly 16, 1986(1986-07-16) (aged 81)
Alma materColumbia University
AwardsOersted Medal (1961)
Scientific career
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
ThesisThe temperature dependence of Young's modulus for nickel (1934)
Doctoral advisorShirley Leon Quimby
Doctoral studentsJohn G. King (1953), Rainer Weiss (1962)

Jerrold Reinach Zacharias (January 23, 1905 – July 16, 1986) was an American physicist and Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,[1] as well as an education reformer. His scientific work was in the area of nuclear physics.


Jerrold Zacharias was born on January 23, 1905 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Zacharias was involved in both the Radiation Laboratory at MIT and the Manhattan Project. He helped build the MIT physics department after the war, and was responsible for recruiting Bruno Rossi and Victor Weisskopf to the Institute. During the Cold War he was the head of a number of defense-related studies hosted at MIT (Project Hartwell, Project Charles, Project Lamp Light) and later he both founded and ran the Physical Science Study Committee, which was influential in changing physics education in the United States in the wake of Sputnik (1957).

Zacharias also developed the first practical version of the cesium-beam clock,[2] often called an "atomic clock," which later became the internationally accepted standard for timekeeping.

In 1954 he testified at the security clearance hearing of J. Robert Oppenheimer, where he was accused of being part of a cabal known as "ZORC" (Zacharias, Oppenheimer, Rabi, Charles Lauritsen) that was attempting to do damage to U.S. national security. (On the contrary, Zacharias did much research to aid national defense.)[citation needed] He was later investigated by agents of Senator Joseph McCarthy. He did not cooperate with them and consequently there was fear that he might lose his job.

He was awarded the Oersted Medal in 1961.

During the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, Zacharias worked for the White House's Office of Science and Technology. In the mid 1960s he hosted a series of lectures at Tufts University which acted as the spark for the formation of the pioneering artists-in-the-schools organization Teachers & Writers Collaborative.[3] Zacharias continued to push for educational reform throughout the 1960s and 1970s through such projects as Elementary Science Study and the educational TV series Infinity Factory. He was also the founder of Education Development Center, a global nonprofit that develops science and math curricula.

Zacharias died at age 81.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Feshbach, Herman; French, Anthony P.; Hill, Albert G.; King, John G. (July 1987). "Obituary: Jerrold Reinach Zacharias". Physics Today. 40 (7): 85–86. Bibcode:1987PhT....40g..85F. doi:10.1063/1.2820125. Archived from the original on 2013-10-04.
  2. ^ "Atomichron, Cesium-Beam Atomic Clock, Jerrold Zacharias and National Company, 1953–1956 | The MIT 150 Exhibition". Retrieved 2016-04-07.
  3. ^ Hechinger, Fred M. "About Education: An Experiment in 'Activism,'" New York Times (Dec. 4, 1979).

Sources consulted[edit]

  • Norman F. Ramsey. "Jerrold R. Zacharias (1905-1986)" (PDF). National Academy of Sciences website. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
  • Jack S. Goldstein (1992), A Different Sort of Time: The Life of Jerrold R. Zacharias, MIT Press

External links[edit]