top of page
< Back

The Jewish Fellows of the Royal Society

Dr. Redcliffe N. Salaman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Jewish Fellows of the Royal Society Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England, 15th December, 1947 By Redcliffe N. Salaman, M.D., F.R.S. Some years back I was invited to write an essay on the Jewish Fellows of the Royal Society, as a tribute to the eightieth birth? day of my life-long friend, Elkan Adler, now unfortunately no more. I was well aware that I should probably encounter a two? fold criticism. Some would say that as the Jewish people are merely a group of persons professing a religious faith called Judaism, they are not suitable material for an analytical study such as might be staged between different racial groups in relation to their intellectual endowments. Others, again, might object that the Royal Society, being a body devoted to the interests of science, which opens its doors to men of learning irrespective of race or creed, it would be unseemly to attempt to differentiate between those of its Fellows who are Jews and those who are not. The first objection is as old as its factual basis is threadbare ; for it to have validity, it must needs be true that the difference between Jew and non-Jew is merely one of the religious belief which either entertains. To maintain that the Jewish community is merely a group of people thinking alike on religious matters, but in no other way more closely related to each other than they are to the main body of the country's citizens, and not otherwise differentiated from the rest of the non-Jewish world, is to-day a travesty of the 146</page><page sequence="2">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 147 truth. Yet even after experiences such as the Jewries of the world have endured these last fifteen years, there are still persons in this country who can so delude themselves, though they deceive but few others in Jewry and still fewer outside it. Furthermore, to believe that there is an accepted and uniform Judaism common to all Jews, is to deny Jewish history for the last thousand years. It would be nearer the truth to say that Jews are a group united by a common ancestry and a long tradition of suffering, but divided more or less acutely by divergent variations of a basic Judaistic faith. As regards the second criticism, whether it is seemly to use the records of the Royal Society as a criterion of research in a purely Jewish problem, it is not necessary to do more than point out that Jews are neither the first nor the least to do so. Of recent years, religious communities and groups, such as the Noncomformists, the Presbyterians, and the Ministers of the Church of England have found in these archives material to interest them, as have bodies of a purely secular character, such as the Life Insurance Offices and the Indian Medical Service. Good precedent as there is for such an investigation, one must, nevertheless, face that fact that the Jewish case is different and carries with it other implications. The Englishman of the Anglican, Presbyterian, or other dissenting persuasion, is merely an individual who associates his religious thought and loyalties with one or other church. His breeding and his cultural back-grounds may not differ perceptibly from that of his fellows. In the case of the Jew loyalties arising from a community of blood and common tradition are forces which must be consciously equilibrated with those he shares in common with his fellow countrymen before he takes his place in the daily struggle of life. More important than either, to my mind, is the consideration of the problem that if statistically the Jews do show a higher quota of Fellows than their numerical status in the general community would justify, is this to be considered evidence of a</page><page sequence="3">148 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER : IN MEMORIAM higher rate of intelligence in the Jewish Community, or is it due to a difference in the social and economic composition peculiar to the smaller group as compared with that of the general population ? To this point I shall return after surveying the field of inquiry as presented by the records of the Royal Society itself. For the purpose of this discussion, it is necessary to define the meaning of the term "Jewish" as it will be used here. This is not difficult, for we are not concerned with the individual's religious belief, but only with his intellectual powers and their relation to the community in which he and his forbears have been born and reared. It is for this reason that I include such men as Lord Beaconsfield and de Castro Sarmento in my list, though the former was baptized at the age of twelve and a half, and the latter elected to sever his connection with the Jewish community in his old age. A man, both of whose parents are by birth Jewish, is for our purposes a Jew. This necessarily excludes from my list those of mixed origin, even when they bear the Jewish surname of their father and may profess the Jewish faith ; at the same time, it prevents me from including many distinguished Fellows of the Society. It has not always been easy to determine whether any particular individual is,- in the foregoing sense, a Jew or not; in such cases it has therefore seemed wiser to omit the names of Fellows of whose origin there is reasonable doubt. While both the living and the dead are included in the statistical survey of the material, it is of the latter only that I shall speak in any detail. The first Jewish Fellow was elected in 1723, and from that day till the present, about eighty Jews by birth have been enrolled. When one examines the relations holding between them and the community of their birth, one feature assumes a peculiar prominence. I refer to the relatively large number which at one time or another of their existence have left the</page><page sequence="4">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 149 Jewish community. It is not possible to give exact figures, but it is safe to say that about one-third of those who have attained the distinction of the Fellowship between 1723 and the present day have divorced themselves from the community of their origin. So high a rate of dissociation among so intensely selected an intellectual group of Jews deserves some study ; in particular for the light it might shed on the conflict which arises when a group linked by tradition, religion, and blood is exposed to the searching winds of free speculation. One is not blind to the fact that other considerations of a more worldly nature may be involved. The position is illuminated by the well-authenticated tale of how Paul Ehrlich used to take leave of his Jewish research students as they quitted his laboratory to make their way in the academic world. The most gifted he would dismiss with the final words " you need not be baptized " ; to the less promising he recommended an early acceptance of the rite. Whatever the urge that has led so many eminent Jewish scientists to leave their mother-community, it cannot l&gt;e ascribed to any anti-Jewish prejudice entertained by the Royal Society. One result of the tendency for Jewish Fellows to dissociate themselves from their Community calls for attention. In the records of the Royal Society several examples will be found where members of the same family, whether of the same genera? tion or of subsequent ones, have attained the distinction of the Fellowship. Outstanding examples are to be found in the Darwin, the Taylor, and other families. Among the Jewish Fellows this is relatively rare. Indeed, the only examples are the two Mendes da Costas, uncle and nephew, the Mond family, in which Ludwig was followed by his two sons, Sir Robert Mond and the first Lord Melchett, and the two brothers Kronecker, both foreign Members. Against this, we have the Herschel family group, perhaps one of the most distinguished in the annals of British science. The father, Sir William, possibly a Jew by birth, married a non Jewish wife and had no relations with the community ; his L</page><page sequence="5">150 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER : IN MEMORIAM brilliant son, Sir John, was a Fellow, and so were the latter's two sons. A similar case was that of the Cohen-Palgrave family. All of these must in this discussion be left out of account. In the public mind, the Royal Society is regarded as a body which has gathered under its wing the country's leaders in the sciences, pure and applied. This is but part of the truth and in order to gain a more correct perspective of the intellectual status of its Fellows as a whole I must take a brief survey of the Society's history. The Royal Society grew out of the discussions on " natural philosophy " of a small group of academic scholars and learned men who not infrequently spoke of themselves as the " Invisible College ". Their meetings began in 1645, DUt during the Civil War the group divided into two, one meeting in London, the other in Oxford. In 1660 the London group, now much strengthened, took on a more definite shape, holding its weekly sessions in Gresham College under the name of " The Philosophers Society ". In 1662 the Society obtained from Charles II a Charter of Incorporation under which it assumed the name of " The Royal Society for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge ". The King became its first Patron, a position which, with the exception of William and Mary and Queen Anne, has always been held by the reigning monarch. The omission of these names would seem to suggest that if the Society was immune to anti-semitism, it was not, in its earlier days, so liberally inclined where political faction was involved. Before long the Society's membership took on a fourfold character. First came men of outstanding learning, including the leading astronomers, mathematicians, and physicists of the day, and a few of the more distinguished lights of the Church. Next came that small but highly cultured band of amateurs such as Pepys and Evelyn ; " virtuosos " as they were called. It was they who bridged the gulf between the landed squirearchy and</page><page sequence="6">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 151 the rising intelligentsia of the middle-class. Such men devoted their leisure and much of their fortunes to the pursuit of know? ledge and the cultivation of the arts and sciences. The third group to whom the Society opened its doors was composed of noblemen and men of influence who, it was fondly hoped, would prove likely patrons of research. Finally, but by no means least, were a number of distinguished foreign scholars whose presence and influence helped to establish the Society's unique position in the scientific world. We may conveniently consider this last group now. Foreigners were welcomed as Fellows or Foreign Members, terms used indifferently, to the Society with a generosity which before long was to become embarrassing. In later years not only did their quality fall off, but their numbers grew out of all proportion. By the year 1766 the Foreign Members accounted for one-half of the total number of Fellows ; in the year 1786 it was necessary to limit their number to 100, and in 1823 tne quota was further reduced to 50, at which figure it has since remained. It was not long before one class of Fellows, the illustrious and ornamental, also became an embarrassment, for they had signally failed to provide the Society with funds for maintenance or research. The excessive number of non-scientific Fellows, moreover, tended to crowd out the growing body of scientists in the country and hindered the prosecution of the Society's fundamental object, the advancement of natural knowledge. The preponderance of non-scientists was such that by 1740 they out? numbered the scientists by two to one, and by 1800 the ratio had attained its maximum, viz. 2.5 to 1. These facts must be kept in mind when we consider the level of attainment of the early Jewish Fellows. From 1778 to 1820 the Society was completely dominated by its President, Sir Joseph Banks, a man of great ability and force of character ; it was during his long reign that the fellow? ship attained its highest limit of 750, as against the average figure of 450 which has been maintained for the past fifty years.</page><page sequence="7">152 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER : IN MEMORIAM This rapid increase was due to the inclusion of a large number of persons altogether outside the rank of scientists. After Banks' death a reaction set in which aimed at increasing both the number and power of the scientific Fellows in the councils of the Society. It was not till 1847 that the final battle was won. From 1848 till 1930 the number of Fellows to be elected annually was limited to fifteen, all of whom were to be men of science, and all elected on the same day. The old privilege by which Peers of the Realm could be nominated and elected on the same day, was used much more sparingly, and in 1874 it was abolished except in the case of Princes of the Blood. In 1931 the number of annual elections of scientific Fellows was increased to seventeen, in 1938 to twenty, and again in 1946 to twenty-five. In the year 1946 women Fellows were elected for the first time in the history of the Society?no Jewess has as yet been so honoured. It will be realized that whilst the number of Fellows elected annually remained constant for eighty-three years, i.e. till 1930, and was subsequently only raised by a few places, the number of scientific workers in Great Britain and the Dominions had increased in the same period twenty-fold and more. The resulting competition has of necessity raised very considerably the general standard of scientific attainment demanded from candidates during the last century. From 1848 the character of the Society was fundamentally altered ; the ornamental and aristocratic section was allowed to die out while the scientific, ever more stringently selected, assumed its control and guided its destiny. For the great luminaries of the scientific world, the Newtons, the Darwins, and the Rutherfords of this country, the Lavoissiers, Pasteurs, the Einsteins and Plancks of the Continent, the Society has always been ready to open its doors. Under Rule 12 the Society still elects from time to time a few persons eminent in the Councils of the State or benefactors of scientific research. Their numbers also have been much reduced of late, so that many a one who was elected on these or</page><page sequence="8">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 153 similar grounds a hundred or even fifty years ago, would not be considered to-day. From what has been said it will be realized that a comparison of the numbers or characters of the Fellows belonging to any particular social or other group within the Fellowship is con? ditioned, to some extent, by the period in which they became Fellows. So far as the selection and election of ordinary Fellows is concerned the period between 1723, when the first Jewish Fellow was elected and 1847, *s sharply distinguished from that between the years 1848 and 1946. In regard to foreign Fellows elected, during the period beginning in 1823 anc^ reaching to the present day, while their numbers elected have been strictly limited the field from which they were chosen has been rapidly expanding. This is in severe contrast to the preceding period 1662-1822, when their numbers were unlimited and the field of choice much smaller. Another point of interest is the composition of the Fellowship in relation to the scientific pursuits of the Fellows. The physical and allied sciences have always been more strongly represented than the biological, excluding the medical profession. This latter, up till 1800, was represented by about 60 per cent of the total total of scientific Fellows, a fact which tended to favour Jewish entrants. We are now in a position to examine the character of the Jewish in relation to the general body of Fellows. During the first years of the Society's existence, although no Jews were admitted to the Fellowship the greatest Jewish intellect of the age, Benedict de Spinoza, had through his friends Oldenburg and Huyghens, established close relations with Robert Boyle and other leading members of the newly formed Royal Society, all of whom held him in the highest esteem. During the eighteenth century there were nine Jews elected. Of these, Isaac Sequeira de Samuda (1723),1 a physician of some 1 The figures in parentheses following the name of a Fellow, indicate the year of his election.</page><page sequence="9">154 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER : IN MEMORIAM repute, was the earliest. Moses Mendes da Costa (1736) and Joseph Salvador (1759) were financial magnates who do not seem to have had either direct or collateral scientific interests qualifying them for the Fellowship of the Society; Naphtali Franks (1764) was not much better equipped in this respect either, though he is said to have been much interested in botany. He and his brother Aaron were the leading members of the Community and generous supporters of its cultural activities. He is also remembered in the Jewish community because of the part he played in a famous lawsuit. Alvaro Suasso (1735), likewise "a leading financier of his day, had a more impressive claim for recognition. A descendant of the Suasso who financed the future William III in his descent on England, he in company with Salvador and Anthony (Moses) da Costa, F.R.S., shared in the organization of a settlement of " poor persons " in Georgia. It is of interest that a large proportion of these settlers were Jews who, with their comrades, are said to have made good in their new home. Four of the nine Jewish Fellows were physicians. Besides Samuda we find Meyer Sch?mberg (1726) who won popular success, though the methods by which he achieved it were not beyond criticism. In Jacob Rodriguez Pereira (1760), a Foreign Member, we have a man of greater distinction, for it was he who, after prolonged study and experiment, developed a method of educating the congenitally deaf and dumb. Jacob de Castro Sarmento (1729) was also a physician who as a Marrano had fled the Inquisition in Portugal to settle in England. He gained a great reputation as being particularly skilled in curing fevers ; indeed he is credited with having introduced vaccination fifty years before Jenner. Prior to his election, and in order to excite opposition to his appointment, a certain Daniel Flores accused de Castro Sarmento of having assisted the Inquisition in Portugal in taking action against some of his fellow Jews. In order to ally the prejudice thus aroused Sarmento asked the Synagogue authorities of London to hold an</page><page sequence="10">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 155 enquiry. This was done, their findings, which exonerated him circulated, and Sarmento duly elected to the Society. De Castro Sarmento is erroneously described as a Rabbi in the Dictionary of National Biography. He did, however, publish a funeral oration in honour of the Haham David Nieto as well as several meditations on religious subjects. Sarmento formally left the Jewish Community in 1758. Emanuel Mendes da Costa (1741), a nephew of Moses da Costa, was a man of many parts, a great authority on conchology, a mineralogist, and an antiquarian. Unfortunately, his moral character fell considerably short of his scientific ability, with the result that his tenure of the Secretaryship of the Society was brought to an abrupt termination by the discovery of extensive frauds which he had perpetrated at the Society's expense. It is of interest that the greater part of the pecuniary loss was made good by his guarantors, and that the good name of the ancient and distinguished family of Mendes da Costa was redeemed in our own time by a collateral descendant, the late Charles Seligman (1919), whose mother bore that name. On the whole, the eighteenth century Jewish vintage was disappointing and included nobody of outstanding distinction. It is, therefore, with # all the greater regret that I have felt obliged to omit the name of that veritable giant of the scientific world, Sir William Herschel, who was elected in 1781. There seems little reason to believe that his mother, Anna Moritzen, was of Jewish birth. The next period to come under review is that between the years 1801 and 1847. I* *s one m which the rules limiting the election of Foreign Members was in force, but those dealing with ordinary Fellows were still unaltered. The reform movement within the Society which began in 1820, however, was beginning to make itself felt before the end of the period, by the sharp fall in the number of Peers of the Realm elected to the Society. Nevertheless, the Society was still being recruited with a large number of rather less than more distinguished non-scientists.</page><page sequence="11">156 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER : IN MEMORIAM In these forty-seven years, eight new Jewish Fellows were elected. Four of these, all men of distinction, were non-scientists : one, Francis Cohen (1821) who left the community and was later to be known as Sir Francis Palgrave, was a man of the highest attainments both as an historian and as a lawyer. He specialized on pedigree cases in the House of Lords, a work which led to his becoming the founder of the Public Record Office as we now know it. Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid (1828), a leading financier of the City of London; was honoured by election, presumably because of the prominent part he took in the foundation of University College, London. Sir Moses Montefiore (1836) was elected before he had undertaken his many visits to the Continent and the Near East on behalf of the persecuted members of his Community. It was probably the important part he played in promoting the use of coal-gas as an illuminant which gave him his entree to the Society. George Basevi (1843), a cousin of Lord Beaconsfield, and the favourite pupil of Sir John Soane, was an architect who worked in the classical tradition and was responsible for the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and the design of the houses in Belgrave Square. His father had left the Jewish Community in 1817 at the same time as did Isaac dTsraeli, Lord Beaconsfield's father. Although medical men found a relatively easy access to the fellowship we have but one, Jonathan Pereira (1838), whom we can claim with assurance. It would be tempting to add the name of Samuel Solly (1837), a well-known surgeon of his day to this list but I am assured by Sir Thomas Colyer-Fergusson that this claim must be disallowed. Pereira, a physician of the London Hospital, was the recognized authority of his day in England on pharmacy. He gave the first complete course on Materia Medica to be delivered in England, ?in 1843. He was also an authority on dietetics and the compo? sition of foods. The remaining three Fellows of the period were scientists of</page><page sequence="12">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 157 really high standing : Carl Jacobi (1833), a Foreign Fellow, was a mathematician and Professor at K?nigsberg who, in his day, was regarded as only second to Gauss. Benjamin Gompertz (1819), another mathematician of the first rank was a brother-in-law of Sir Moses Montefiore. A many-sided man, he adopted the profession of an actuary and practised as such in the Alliance of which Montefiore was a founder. By reason of his famous Laws of Mortality Gompertz is regarded as the founder of modern actuarial science. Still more outstanding was James Sylvester (1839) wno shared with his colleague, Arthur Cayley, the reputation of being the greatest pure mathematician of the century. Together, they were responsible for the doctrine of invariants in algebra. Sylvester founded the American Journal of Mathematics and a school of mathematicians in the United States. In Oxford he was equally stimulating and was looked on as the father of English mathematicians. In addition to his mathematical researches, Sylvester wrote much verse, a theory of versification, and found time to translate many foreign works into English. With the year 1848 began the new era in the development of the Society. The election of ordinary Fellows was now subject to severe limitation in numbers and to a scrutiny as regards attainment which resulted in the fifteen Fellows elected in each year being all leading men of science. Although these con? ditions have persisted practically unchanged till to-day it will be convenient to regard the next period as beginning in 1848 and ending in 1900. From now on we find that only a limited number of the leading statesmen of the day, or of those whose distinction lay in spheres of interest outside science were elected as additional Fellows under a Special Rule, now known as Rule 12. Between 1848 and 1900 fourteen Jews entered the Society, seven as Foreign Members, four as ordinary Fellows, and three under Rule 12. Of these last three, two were men whose services to the State</page><page sequence="13">158 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER : IN MEMORIAM are still remembered and honoured. Benjamin Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield) (1876), and Sir George Jessel (1880), Master of the Rolls, whose career at the Bar and on the Bench established his reputation as one of England's greatest lawyers ; he had also the distinction of being the first Jew to be made a Privy Councillor. The third of the group, Henry de Worms (1889), better known as Lord Pirbright, though not in the same class as the former, was a man of solid worth, who accomplished valuable work in the Colonial Office and was himself a scholar and a writer on contemporary history. Of ordinary Fellows there are but four, two of the highest rank?Raphael Meldola (1886), an organic chemist and pioneer in the discovery of aniline dyes, was almost as expert an entomo? logist as he was chemist; and Arthur Schuster (1879), an experi? mental physicist, mathematician, and meteorologist. Both these men, each in his degree, were also generous benefactors of the Society. The third of the ordinary Fellows, Ludwig Mond (1891), who settled in this country at the age of 28, was of a somewhat different type. A first-class chemist, he directed his research to industrial ends. His great success lay, however, in his remarkable capacity for converting his discoveries into terms of commercial enterprise. In company with Brunner, he perfected the Solvay method of alkali manufacture, so that under their immediate supervision it became the accepted process of production throughout the world. Together with his son Robert, his discovery of nickel-carbonyl had the most far reaching influence on the manufacture of steel. The company which Mond launched in 1881 for the exploitation of the discoveries of himself and Brunner developed from modest beginnings into the colossal organization we know to-day as the Imperial Chemical Industries. Mond was one of the most far seeing and generous benefactors of scientific research which this country has known : he made the Royal Society the guardian of many of his endowments. A lasting memorial of his relation to the Society is the Royal Society Mond Laboratory at</page><page sequence="14">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 159 Cambridge and the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory of the Royal Institution. In Sir Bernhard Samuelson (1881) we again meet the com? bination of a first-class technical scientist, this time an engineer, with the ability to translate his discoveries in terms of large scale industrial development, in the shape of blast furnaces and kindred works. Samuelson took an active part in organizing technical education throughout the country. The Jewish Foreign Members elected between 1848 and 1900, seven in all, were men of the highest distinction. They comprise Heinrich Magnus (1863), an expert physicist who applied his researches to human physiology; Frederick Henle (1873), an anatomist and pioneer histologist of the very first rank ; Leopold Kronecker (1884), one ?f tne greatest pure mathematicians of his day. Julius Sachs (1888), whose work on plant metabolism has left a lasting impression on botanical studies. Gabriel Lippmann (1896), a physicist, was the first to discover a process for colour photography. Rudolf Heidenhain (1897) was an eminent physiologist and histologist, whose work has influenced the progress of his science till our day. Ferdinand Cohn (1897), although for twenty years a Professor of Botany, has been truly described by the late Professor Bulloch as one of the founders of bacteriology. Famous in his own right, he was not less so in the fact that he recognized and did everything possible to advance the research of his gifted pupil, Robert Koch, the discoverer of the tubercle bacillus. The last period to be reviewed, 1901-47 inclusive, brings the account down to the present day. The majority of the Fellows elected to the Society during this period are happily with us, and although their existence will be taken account of in any statistical statement only the names of those deceased will be mentioned. In the last forty-seven years a minimum of forty-nine Jewish Fellows have been elected in one or other capacity. This number, which is eighteen more than the total elected between 1723 and</page><page sequence="15">I?O ELKAN NATHAN ADLER .* IN MEMORIAM 1900, and three and a half times as many as those elected in the previous fifty-two years, is a phenomenon so striking and provocative that it demands the closest attention. Three of the forty-nine were elected under Rule 12. The second Lord Rothschild (1911), Sir Otto Beit (1924), and Lord Melchett (1928). Lord Rothschild was elected in recognition of his services to zoological science by reason of his large, admirably administered, and beautifully displayed collections which, in respect to birds, contained many of the world's " type specimens Throughout his career he constantly gave generous support to collectors of zoological specimens. Rothschild, moreover, was no mere collector, but possessed a wide knowledge of his subject, in some departments of which he was an expert. On his death his great collections were transferred to the State. Otto Beit, neither scientist nor scholar, was a man who had acquired great wealth by applying the then new type of mono? polistic control of industry, of which he was one of the pioneers, to the diamond industry of South Africa. He endowed research and higher education at home and in the Empire with great judgment and on a scale then unequalled in this country. Alfred Mond, the first Lord Melchett, younger son of Ludwig Mond, had no specific interest in science. Trained as a lawyer and gifted with an almost superhuman drive, he brought about the amalgamation of most of the chemical factories of the country with the great Brunner Mond Works, to form the Imperial Chemical Industries. As senior director, he exerted a great influence on the training and future of applied chemists and physicists. Late in life a passionate interest in Zionism led him to take an interest in his own Community which, up till then, had been lacking. Of the thirty-one ordinary Fellows of this period nine have died ; all of them were men of distinction who have rendered notable service in the various branches of science in which they were engaged. We have not space to do much more than record their names and the field of their activities :?</page><page sequence="16">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY l6l Julius Berend Cohen (1911) was Professor of Organic Chemistry at Leeds. Walter Rosenhain (1913), Superintendent of Metallurgy in the National Physical Laboratories. Siegfried Ruhemann (1914), organic chemist, at one time Reader in Chemistry at Cambridge. Charles Myers (1915), physiologist, anthropologist, and psychologist; at one time Professor of Psychology in Cambridge ; was the pioneer of vocational guidance and the founder of the National Institute of Industrial Psychology. He was active throughout his life in Jewish communal affairs. Charles Seligman (1919) was the most distinguished anthro? pologist of his time and in his early days one of the pioneers of experimental biology. Samuel Schryver (1928) was Professor of Biochemistry at the Imperial College of Science. He was an inspiring teacher, an enthusiastic investigator over a wide field, and a specialist on the subject of gelatine and adhesives. Sir Robert Mond (1938) showed great promise in his early days as a pure chemist whose work with his father has already been referred to. The rapid growth of his business made increasing demands on his time as director and administrator of the Brunner Mond Works and prevented him pursuing his re? searches. He was keenly interested in Egyptology and Palestinian Archaeology, to both of which he gave the most generous assistance. Mond founded La Societe des Amis de la Maison de la Chemie in Paris, and was largely responsible for the Norman Lockyer Observatory at Sidmouth. Sir John Fox (1943), was Government Chemist who succeeded in accomplishing much original work despite his administrative duties. His brother, Charles Fox, until recently Director of Training of Teachers, will be well known to all Cambridge men. Alexander Sands (1944) was one of the staff of the Marine Station at Plymouth. A physiologist of great promise he died by his own hand at an early age.</page><page sequence="17">162 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER : IN MEMORIAM Of the .fifteen foreign Jewish Fellows elected between the years 1900 and 1947, eight have died. For convenience I will divide them into men of the foremost rank in their respective subjects, and those who may be regarded as the giants of world science. Of the former, we have Hugo Kronecker (1900) and Hermann Ludimar (1905), both renowned physiologists. Vito Volterra (1910) and Tullio Levi-Civita (1930), mathematicians of the highest eminence. Finally, Richard Willst?tter (1928), a chemist who if not a " giant" in the sense we are using it here, was something not far removed. Of the giants, there are Albert Michelson (1902), whose research with E. W. Morley on the velocity of light abolished the " ether " of the physicists and prepared the way for Einstein's Relativity theory. Paul Ehrlich (1910), the father of the entire chemotherapy of to-day which found popular expression in salvarson, or 606. To him also we are indebted for the science of haematology and the theoretical basis of immunity. Karl Landsteiner (1941), the discoverer of the blood groups, was a Jew by birth, though he denied any connection with the Community. His researches have made transfusion in its various forms one of the most powerful weapons in the hands of the medical profession. Finally, we come to one whom many will consider the greatest of all the giants, Sigmund Freud. It is not necessary to say more than that to him we owe the new attitude towards the science of psychology and the origination of psycho? analytical treatment, discoveries which have had almost as revolutionary an effect on the principles and methods of educa? tion, the treatment of delinquents, and the relations of family life, as they have had on the diagnosis and treatment of nervous disorders. The purpose of this essay, however far short it may fall in its fulfilment, is not to boast, and still less to boost, Jewish achieve? ments in the realms of science ; rather is it to make use of the opportunity which such a body as the Royal Society offers, for</page><page sequence="18">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 163 considering the potential and character of the part played by Jews as compared with other communities in the scientific world. For our purpose, the Royal Society may be regarded as a selective agency designed to bring together under one banner the leaders of scientific activity in the Commonwealth and through the medium of its foreign Fellows, of the world. It will not, therefore, be out of place to sketch the procedure adopted for the election of ordinary Fellows. An individual whose scientific stature has reached a certain fairly high standard, may be nominated by an existing Fellow and, if supported by at least five others, his name will be accepted for candidature by the Fellows at large at their next meeting. The first fence taken, his name, with a short description of his research work and other activities is " suspended" and kept with others open for inspection. In exceptional cases his election may follow in the course of the same year, but more commonly a period averaging four or five years elapses before admission to the Society takes place. Actually, about one-sixth of the names on the list of candidates are selected, strictly on their merits, each year. The selection is made in the first instance by specialist com? mittees for each branch of science ; if the candidate survives this, the most searching test, his claims are subjected to a further scrutiny by the Council of the Society. If he emerges from this ordeal his name will be put before the body of the Fellows for election by ballot. This last fence, which looks so ominous, is in fact a mere formality. So much for the ordinary Fellows who are drawn from the citizens of Great Britain, the Dominions, including India, and the Colonies. Foreign Fellows are elected by the Council from among those whose researches have gained world-wide recognition. The standard is the highest possible and the choice is, I should say, even more eclectic than that exercised by those who award the Nobel Prizes, for little more than one foreign Fellow on the average is elected each year. If we determine the percentage of Jews present in the body of</page><page sequence="19">164 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER : IN MEMORIAM the Society and compare it with that borne by the Jewish Community in relation to the general population of the Empire, we should expect to obtain some idea of the relative tendency of the members of the larger and small communities respectively, to attain the higher grades of the scientific hierarchy. Although we do not know the exact number of Jews in the Empire, we can arrive at a near estimate of their relative pro? portion to the whole. Between the two wars the number of Jews in Great Britain was estimated to be rather under 400,000, or rather less than one per cent of the entire population. In the Dominions it is certainly no higher, while in India and the Far East it is negligible. We shall, therefore, not be far wrong if we accept the figure of one per cent as the upper limit of the number of Jews to-day in those sections of the Empire from which eligible candidates for election to the Royal Society are normally drawn. The nature of the problem we are faced with may be appre? ciated when we learn that to-day the percentage of ordinary Jewish Fellows in relation to the total number of their colleagues in the Society is rather more than 5 per cent?over five times that which might be expected. The position in regard to Foreign fellows is still more extraordinary. In 1947 it was over 17 per cent, and recently the proportion has been as high as 25 per cent. To interpret these figures as indicating the existence of a much higher percentage of intellectual ability, and hence a proportionately greater potential of first-class scientific workers among the Jewish as compared with the non-Jewish constituents of the community would be as dangerous as it would be foolish to under-estimate their true significance. A far smaller excess in favour of the Jews, if it could be shown to be persistent, might in truth be stronger evidence of the existence of such an intellectual superiority. A difference of the magnitude disclosed by the figure I have just mentioned can only mean that there must be powerful external factors at work, over and above mere differences of</page><page sequence="20">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 165 innate ability, if indeed such exist. Our problem, therefore, is to identify these secondary agents and as far as possible assess their influence. The first task will be to discover whether this relative excess of Jewish Fellows has manifested itself over the whole period involved and, if not, how and when did it attain its present value ? The task is rendered less difficult than it might have been by the fact that although our inquiry takes us back over two hundred years at no time does the question of anti-semitism play any part in the problem. Throughout the whole period of the Society's existence there is no trace of this sentiment having influenced its councils ; even the deplorable frauds perpetrated by a Jewish secretary in the first half of the eighteenth century failed to induce a temporary change of attitude. Between 1723, the date of election of the first Jew, and 1800, out of a total of 1,842 entrants to the Society, nine were Jews, or less than one-half of one per cent. The Jewish Community in 1760 was estimated to be between 6,000 and 8,000, and that at the end of the century is not likely to have been more than about 20,000 strong, or little more than one-fifth of one per cent of the whole population. The numbers are small and it would be unsafe to attempt to deduce much from them ; they do, however, allow us to say that throughout the eighteenth century the Jews did at least provide their full quota of men thought worthy of the Society's Fellowship, though it must be confessed that none were of outstanding quality. During the eighteenth century the Sephardim were the dominant section of the English Jewish Community. But during the latter half of the century Jews from Western Germany began to reach these shores. In contradistinction to the Sephardim, few of these newcomers had enjoyed the advantages of Western culture, though they were rich enough in that of their own people. Hence, it took a generation or more before they acquired the habits and outlook of contemporary Englishmen. M</page><page sequence="21">166 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER I IN MEMORIAM It is not, therefore, surprising that of the nine Jewish Fellows of the eighteenth century, eight were Sephardim and but one Ashkenazi. Before long many of these new men made good their position in both the general and the Jewish Community, so that we find such families as the Goldsmids, the Rothschilds, the Cohens, and others, not only replacing but eclipsing in importance the old Sephardi families, most of whom have, so far as the Jewish community is concerned, just melted away. Our next period is from 1801 to 1847, tne Year m which the new and more stringent regulations as to the Fellowship were introduced. In these forty-seven years, eight Jews were elected, as against a total of 1,295, or about three-quarters of one per cent of the whole. Of the eight Jewish Fellows, five were Ashkenazi and three Sephardi. This inversion of the proportion of Jewish Fellows emanating from the two sections is, I think, a pointer to what was and is still happening in the Community. The older and more assimilated families were all originally Sephardi, and as they acquired property and position they merged more or less com? pletely into the upper classes of the general population. Their energies and ambitions now found other outlets than in the medical profession and allied sciences. The incoming Ashkenazim, on the other hand, had still to fight hard for their position, starting, many of them, as small traders and pedlars. To them the learned professions offered a goal for their able sons and a springboard from which they could attain social equality with their Sephardi brethren no less than with their neighbours in the great and growing English middle-class. Hence, the inversion of the proportion as between Sephardim and Ashkenazim in the roles of the Royal Society's Fellowship is not to be regarded as an indication of relative ability but the result of social forces. If snobbery converted the old Sephardi families into landed gentry, ambition drove the Ashkenazim to seek new paths by which to win social equality.</page><page sequence="22">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 167 When we pass from 1848 to 1900, a period during which the standard of the Fellowship had been raised, we find seven ordinary Jewish Fellows elected in a total of 869. The Jewish element has remained still under one per cent. The Jewish population during this period was not more than one-third of one per cent of that of the United Kingdom. Of the seven Jewish Fellows of this period, five belonged to the Ashkenazi and two to the Sephardi section of the community. The most noticeable feature about this period is that the percentage of Jews in the Society showed no marked increase, and that the promising start made by the new-coming but now well-established Ashkenazi Jew is not maintained. If we take a birds-eye view of the Community during the second half of the nineteenth century we see that it is one in which the German or Ashkenazi section had become strong and wealthy, and that their leaders had, for the most part, con? centrated their activities on the building up of their own enterprises on the one hand, and that of the great communal institutions which have served the Jews of this country so well during the last hundred years, on the other. At the same time, the more promising of their younger sons had begun to forsake the affairs of the Community for careers in public life. Parliament, municipal office, the Bar and the forces, which had recently been thrown open, were fields which increasingly attracted the more gifted. The medical profession, as always, was a favourite pursuit among Jews, but it no longer attracted the cream of their intellectual youth, while research in pure science made little or no appeal to the well-to-do of Anglo-Jewry at that time. Nor, it must be confessed, did it to the cultured classes of the country as a whole. The material well-being and stability of the Anglo-Jewish community grew in strength from 1850 till the end of the nineteenth century, but it would seem, without any greater interest in its own intellectual and spiritual life than that shown by their fellow citizens. This indifference is</page><page sequence="23">168 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER I IN MEMORIAM recorded in the small number of English Jews elected to the Royal Society. The last period to be examined is that between 1901 and 1947. It is a period of great change, materially and spiritually, and we can best appreciate it by examining the percentage rate of Jewish members at short intervals. The percentage of ordinary Fellows in the Society were as follows :? In 1901, i-o per cent; in 1910, o-6 per cent; in 1920, 2 -o per cent; in 1930, 3 -o per cent; in 1940, 3 ?7 per cent; in 1947, 5-3 per cent. In the first decade of this century the percentage of Jewish Fellows hardly maintained its old level of about one per cent, to which we have been accustomed for over a century, sinking in 1910 to o *6 per cent. After 1910 a steady rise in the relative number of Jewish Fellows set in and continued uninterruptedly till it reached the remarkable figure of 5 -3 per cent in 1947. What is the meaning of this steady and astonishing increase ? It cannot be that the Jews have suddenly become inordinately gifted, or that a wave of preferential pro-semitism has set in. The explanation will not escape those who, like myself, are in their seventies. Three words, " The May Laws," of 1881, provide the key to the puzzle. These laws, the culminating act of a long drawn out persecution of the Jews in Czarist Russia, drove about two million Jews out of the pale of settlement into Western Europe and North America. About 150,000 settled in England, a great many in Germany, but the great majority crossed to America. The Jewish population of England rose from about 60,000 in 1880 to three times that number in 1905. The sudden increase in the number of Jewish Fellows is, in truth, one of the more remote effects of that movement towards secular learning and intellectual freedom which originated among the Jews of Germany two hundred years ago, but only began gradually to infect the great mass of Russo-Polish Jewry some seventy years back. If in its origin the Haskalah movement,</page><page sequence="24">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 169 as it is called, was essentially Jewish, its repercussions had far reaching, one might say world-wide, effects. For centuries the Jews in Poland and Russia had assuaged their acute intellectual thirst at the subtle waters of the Talmud and Cabbala ; as an education it had compelled the interest of the student from boyhood onwards, and as a discipline it not only demanded concentration but sharpened and refined the students' minds to a degree scarcely equalled by any other discipline. As a source of enlightenment to the world outside, the educational system of the ghetto had failed, for its whole trend was to look backwards, just when the eyes of the outer world were straining to penetrate a future now beginning to be illumined by the light of scientific research. Nor could the old come to terms with the new, for the ghetto viewed the knowledge of the stranger with fear and distrust. When at last the ghetto walls fell there was a veritable army of young men with highly trained minds waiting, ready and eager, to absorb the new learning. To it they came, not as men ignorant of the traditions of the learned, but as mature students with intellects selected for centuries for their ability to thread the tortuous paths of scholar? ship, with minds inspired with the holiness of the search for knowledge. When the time came, they approached the new field of endeavour like soldiers versed in all the intricacies of military theory, who had but to learn the use of new weapons in- order to win their way to its highest citadels. Following the May Laws this wave of students hungering for the new knowledge rolled westwards, enriching and stimulating the already fertile scientific life of Europe. It is but the crest of this wave of which we find record in the Fellowship of the Royal Society. The new-comers were extremely poor and unused to Western learning and ways of life ; they lived in a world apart and spoke a language of their own, with a culture based on the Talmud and the traditional customs of medieval Jewish life. For a generation they maintained their own way of living more or less intact,</page><page sequence="25">170 ELKAN NATHAN ADL?R .* IN MEMORIAM while their children and grand-children plunged into what seemed indeed a bright new world. Forty years in the wilderness prepared the Jews for the Land of Promise, and for forty years the immigrants laboured in the sweat-shops of the East End of London and the slums of Leeds and Manchester before their young people were ready to invade every desirable and, it must be confessed, not a few of the undesir? able walks of life. A great many young Jews of Russian and Polish origin won high places in secondary schools and in the univer? sities, in every branch of the arts and sciences, while a small but select stream passed from the universities to the scientific research institutions up and down the country. Without the backing of wealth or prestige and in the face of much unfair criticism on the part of their non-Jewish neighbours and the more or less inevitable jealousy of their brethren of the older settle? ments, they, by sheer merit aided by unlimited material sacrifice on the part of their parents, won places of distinction and honour in every profession. The parents and grandparents of these men were in the 1890's regarded by the great majority of politically minded Englishmen as the scum of the earth, the dregs of civilization. In those days I was a senior student at the London Hospital, in Whitechapel Road : I got to understand?I wish I could say to know?the Jewish immigrants. I was deeply interested, even if I was occasionally repelled by their reactions to our accepted con? ventions ; it was the immediate social problem their presence created among their English neighbours which worried me most. The shining domestic virtues of these Eastern European Jews I admired and appreciated, but at the same time I was forced to recognize how completely foreign and in many ways repugnant these people must appear to those who knew nothing of their sufferings in the past, their fortitude in the present, or their hopes for the future. The anti-Jewish prejudice which the immigrants aroused among the staff and students of the Hospital was both acrid and personal, though I must confess that the</page><page sequence="26">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 17I architect and inspirer of the Alien Immigration Act of 1905, Major Evans-Gordon, whom I occasionally met at lunch in the common-room of the Hospital, was always restrained and kindly in his conversation. On one occasion, about the year 1898, a certain senior student, sitting at the same table as myself, spoke of the alien Jews with a depth of vulgarity and contempt which, coming from one who was neither renowned for his intelligence nor his integrity, was more than I could bear. I answered him in his own kind, and with interest. For the time at least, he was silenced. The incident would not be worth recalling, were it not that, sitting at the same table was an Oxford man called Paine, one of the most brilliant students of his generation. After lunch he confessed to me that it had never before occurred to him that it was wrong and, as he now saw, degrading to entertain and express such ideas as we had just listened to, and that from that moment he had seen the whole problem from a different angle. We became bosom friends, alas ! not for many years. In due course we both became house-men and both fell victims to infections, as did so many of my hospital friends, the result of the incredible overwork to which in those days we were subjected. I recovered, he died, and England lost a noble son of incalculable promise, and the Jews a friend who had only reached them by subduing the flames of his own unthinking prejudice. The rapid rise in the percentage of Jewish Fellows between 1910 and 1940 was, in the main, brought about by the offspring of these Russian emigres of the i88o's. Of the twenty Jewish Fellows who were elected between 1900 and 1940, less than 25 per cent belong to families, whether Ashkenazi or Sephardi, established in this country before the middle of the nineteenth century. From 1933 we have been privileged to welcome a considerable number of distinguished Jews from Germany, victims of Hitler's persecution. It has not taken them a generation and more, as it did the Russian emigres, to make their influence felt: within seven years sufficient have been elected to the ranks of</page><page sequence="27">172 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER : IN MEMORIAM the Royal Society to help bring the percentage of Jews up from 3 per cent to 5 -3 per cent. These German emigres are, many of them, themselves the descendants of the same ragged and dejected outcasts who invaded Western Europe after the passing of the May Laws. The economic and social forces which we have evoked to explain in part at least the excess of ordinary Fellows will, in large measure, account for the still greater excess of Jewish foreign Fellows. There is, however, one difference : although they or their fathers derive from Eastern Europe they acquired their scientific training in the academic centres of the world, and more particularly in those of pre-Hitler Germany. The march of events is clearly reflected in the records of the rolls of Jewish Foreign Fellows in the last fifty years. In 1890 it was 2 per cent; in 1900, 2-2 per cent; in 1910, 13 -2 per cent; in 1920, 10-39 Per cent; in 1930, 19-0 per cent; in 1939, 25 -o per cent; and in 1946, 17-3 per cent. Lest it be thought that these figures have only a validity for the relation between Jewish savants and the Royal Society it will be of interest to compare them with those which may be garnered from a consideration of the Nobel Laureates. Here, as with the Royal Society, only those individuals whose parents are both Jewish are regarded as Jews. The awards were first made in 1901. By the end of the year 1910, of 58 prizewinners, 4, i.e. 7 per cent, were Jews. Between 1911 and 1920, of 37 prizewinners, 5, i.e. 13*3 per cent were Jews. Between 1921 and 1930, of 52 prizewinners, 5, i.e. 9-6 per cent, were Jews. Between 1931 and 1939, of 49 prizewinners, 1, i.e. 2-o per cent, were Jews. The 1931-39 figures reflect the influence of Hitler's refusal to allow Nobel Prizes to be awarded to German citizens. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that if the suppression of the intellectual elements in Germany was Hitler's policy, his attempt to destroy the whole Jewish people was both logical and necessary. Pharaohs and Czars were, in comparison, mere bunglers.</page><page sequence="28">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 173 There is still a remnant of Eastern Jewry, scattered though it be. We in this country have done much, and have more still to do, to succour and preserve it. In this work we have been actuated by humanitarian and fraternal impulses. Our recompense may be that in so doing, we have unconsciously helped to preserve for the benefit of future generations a certain concentration of intellectual potential which cannot fail to be of value to all mankind. The figures which I have culled from the records of the Royal Society afford ground for both consolation and hope ; long weary years of persecution may stifle, but they cannot eliminate the genius of a people. One further point. In the Nobel lists there can be observed a definite bias in the exhibition of Jewish genius. Between 1901 and 1946 Jews have won 10 per cent of the prizes in physics and chemistry combined and 14 per cent of those devoted to medicine, but only one prize, i.e. 2 per cent, of those awarded for literature. It is therefore permissible to ask whether there are not certain inherited lines along which the Jewish intellect tends to express itself. In this connection it may be remarked that not only have Jews long excelled in the mathematical sciences, but that in the interpretation of great music they are easily pre-eminent. On the other hand, in the realms of art and literature they are, as a group, possibly less distinguished than their non-Jewish colleagues of the Western world. Nor can it be an accident that the greatest dreamers and the most profound teachers, the men who have influenced and still influence the great mass of mankind, from Moses to Karl Marx, have been scions of the Jewish people. These considerations bear out the suggestion that there are certain innate or in? herited paths along which Jewish genius tends to develop. It may be asked why should a group of people, Jewish or other, have a different distribution of intellectual potential from their neighbours ? In the case of the Jews there would seem to be a reasonable explanation. For two thousand years the Jewish people have been subjected in varying degrees to restrictions and</page><page sequence="29">174 ELKAN NATHAN ADLER : IN MEMORIAM hostile treatment. They have had no country of their own, and over much of the period have been deprived of the rights and privileges of normal citizenship. As a result a selective process has been at work which has resulted in the elimination of the weak-minded and those of low mentality. On the other hand, the brightest and more gifted individuals have contrived in one way or another not only to hold their own, but to leave offspring, in a hostile environment. The age-long custom in Eastern European Jewries by which the rich men of the community sought out the best students of the Yeshiba as husbands for their daughters, has undoubtedly tended in the same direction, namely the preferential selection of intellectual ability. In my opinion, there is good evidence for the view that the Jewish masses as a whole possess a somewhat different range of intellectual development from that of their neighbours, inasmuch as they exhibit a larger percentage of the highly intelligent at the top of the scale, and a lesser one at the lower, with a corres? ponding swollen middle group of normally well-equipped individuals. It is well to realize that this peculiarity of intel? lectual development may be the only asset left to the European Jew, stripped of his home, his property, and his human rights. There has always been a Jewish problem, but most non-Jews insist on regarding it from an economic or a personal and social point of view, forgetting that there is another aspect, far more important for the future of both Jew and non-Jew, the spiritual and intellectual wealth which, often hidden beneath an uncouth exterior, may burgeon out regardless of time and place. Fifty years and more ago an eminent surgeon, discussing the Jewish problem with me, said : " Your people are always surprising me : one thinks one is dealing with some out-and-out degenerate family, when all of a sudden one discovers that they have a child with the gift of genius and the presence of an aristocrat. It is a people with a long drawn out tail but one which it is never safe to cut off.,, The record of the Jews in the Royal Society adds point to his argument.</page><page sequence="30">THE JEWISH FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY 175 If the thesis I have propounded is correct, then as a people we have in this matter a grave responsibility. We possess, but only as a self-contained people, an intangible yet invaluable asset in the peculiar distribution of our intellectual development, an asset which we ourselves can dissipate, but of which none can rob us. If we allow our community to melt by intermarriage into the mass of the people with whom we live and work, then we must realize that, whatever advantages might be thought to accrue, and I am not denying that there are serious arguments in favour of such a course, Jewry itself will be inevitably weakened, while the larger community, by reason of its vastly greater numbers, will not be "sensibly enriched. Till recent years, the Jewries of the West have been re-invigorated from the Jewish centres of Eastern Europe. To-day those sources of strength have all but dried up, and we Jews in England are already living on our intellectual and spiritual capital, a fund which is being steadily drained away by intermarriage. To my mind there is but one way by which the distinctive distribution of intellect, which we have shown to be a characteristic of the Jewish people, can be preserved for the benefit of themselves and the good of all mankind. It is by the establishment of a Jewish Reserve?a homeland where this precious gift may be conserved. In short, I believe that some form of Zionism is as necessary for the spiritual health of mankind at large, as it is for the preservation of Jewry itself, and in what other environment can such be expected to flourish, than in Zion, the land of hope and fulfilment ?</page></plain_text>

bottom of page