Write Columbia's History
All-Star Physicists
Michael Tannenbaum
Columbia College 1959
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 1960
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 1965

In my career as an undergraduate and graduate student at Columbia, from 1955 to 1965, the Physics Department must have been the best ever assembled anywhere at anytime.

During this period, the physics faculty had 13 members who either already had Nobel prizes or went on to win them. Not only were they present, but they also taught undergraduates. In Columbia College, my physics professors were Polykarp Kusch, Charles Townes, Leon Lederman, T. D. Lee, I. I. Rabi, and Jack Steinberger. Both Kusch and Lee were my teachers the year after they won the prize. Other eventual prizewinners on the faculty during that period were James Rainwater, Sam Ting, Steve Weinberg, Mel Schwartz, and Carlo Rubbia. While checking the Nobel Prize list on the Web, I noticed that Rubbia was omitted but that Schawlow and Lamb had visited during this period, though I never encountered them. There were also some other great teachers like Robert Serber and C. S. Wu, who were equal to any of the prizewinners. The only problem with this upbringing was that I thought that this was the norm. Is it any wonder that I became a physics major and a physicist?

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