Selig Brodetsky

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Selig Brodestsky
Portrait of Selig Brodetsky (1888-1954), Mathematician (2551561542).jpg
Born 10 February 1888
Olviopol, Ukraine
Died 20 May 1954
London, U.K.
Education Jews' Free School
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Occupation Mathematician
Spouse(s) Manya Berenblum
Children 1 son, 1 daughter
Parent(s) Akiva Brodetsky
Adel Prober
Relatives Solomon Mestel (brother-in-law)
Leon Mestel (nephew)

Selig Brodetsky (10 February 1888 – 20 May 1954) was a Russian-born English mathematician, a member of the World Zionist Executive, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the second president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Brodetsky was born in Olviopol (near Odessa), Ukraine (now Pervomaisk, Mykolaiv Oblast), the second of 13 children born to Akiva Brodetsky (the beadle of the local synagogue) and Adel (Prober). As a child, he witnessed the murder of his uncle in a pogrom. In 1894, the family followed Akiva to the East End of London, to where he had migrated a year earlier. Brodetsky attended the Jews' Free School, where he excelled at his studies. He was awarded a scholarship, which enabled him to attend the Central Foundation Boys' School of London[1] and subsequently, in 1905, Trinity College, Cambridge.

In 1908, he completed his studies with highest honours being Senior Wrangler, to the distress of the conservative press, which was forced to recognise that a son of immigrants surpassed all the local students. The Newton scholarship enabled him to study at Leipzig University where he was awarded a doctorate in 1913. His dissertation dealt with the gravitational field.

In 1919, he married Manya Berenblum, whose family had recently emigrated from Belgium, where her father had been a diamond merchant in Antwerp. She bore him two children, Paul and Adele, in 1924 and 1927.

Academic career[edit]

In 1914, Brodetsky was appointed a Lecturer in Applied Mathematics at the University of Bristol. During the First World War he was employed as an advisor to the British company developing periscopes for submarines.

In 1919, Brodetsky became a Lecturer at the University of Leeds. Five years later he was appointed Professor of Applied Mathematics at Leeds where he remained until 1948. Much of his work concerned aeronautics and mechanics of aeroplanes. He was the head of the mathematics department of the University of Leeds from 1946-1948. He was active in the Association of University Teachers, serving as president in 1935–1936.

Brodetsky became the second president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1949, at a time when the University was going through a rocky period, eventually having to abandon its campus on Mount Scopus. He attempted to overhaul the structure of the University but he soon became embroiled in bitter struggles with the University Senate, which interfered in his academic and bureaucratic work. Apparently, Brodetsky thought that he was going to take up a position similar to that of Vice-Chancellor of an English university but many in Jerusalem saw the position as essentially an honorary one, like the Chancellor of an English university. This struggle affected his health and in 1952 he decided to resign his post and return to England.


In 1928, he became a member of the World Zionist Executive and head of its political department in London. In 1940 he became president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the lay head of British Jewry.

For the last few years of his life, Brodetsky led a quiet life, in contrast to the hectic lifestyle he had led for most of his life. He died in his home on Cromwell Road in London on 20 May 1954 and was buried in the Willesden Jewish cemetery.

One of the dormitories of Tel Aviv University in Israel is named the "Brodetsky building". Before serving as a dormitory, the building served as living accommodations for new immigrants to Israel. In addition, a Jewish primary school in Leeds was named after him.



Other posts[edit]

He was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, Royal Aeronautical Society and Institute of Physics.

His sister Rachel married Rabbi Solomon Mestel; their son is Leon Mestel.


  1. ^ "Alumni". Central Foundation Boys' School. 2013. Retrieved 1 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Selig Brodetsky

External links[edit]

  • The personal papers of Selig Brodetsky are kept at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem. The notation of the record group is A82.