1. Johannes Kepler
Born: December 27, 1571, Weil der Stadt, Germany
Died: November 15, 1630, Regensburg, Germany
Europe in the late 16th and early 17th centuries wasn’t a
safe place for anyone. Religious wars swept across the
continent, and being a scientist whose work challenged
dominant interpretations of the Bible didn’t help.
Johannes Kepler’s astonishing mathematical processing,
which allowed us to understand the movements of the
planets, and the behavior of light, was done while under
Banished from Graz, Austria, over his religious
convictions, Kepler was lucky that Emperor Rudolph II
waived official bans on Lutherans in Prague for his sake.
This allowed him to do the work that transformed
astronomy in relative safety. After Rudolph abdicated,
Kepler found it safest to move three more times, possibly
preventing other great contributions.
2. Albert Einstein
Born: March 14, 1879, Ulm, Germany
Died: April 18, 1955, Princeton, New Jersey, United
Albert Einstein developed the general theory of relativity,
one of the two pillars of modern physics. Einstein’s work
is also known for its influence on the philosophy of
science. “Imagination is more important than
In 1933 Albert Einstein’s house in Germany was raided
by agents of the newly appointed Nazi government. The
Nazis had systematically denounced both Einstein and
his work, calling his relativity theory “Jewish science”.
Fortunately, Einstein was on tour in the US when Hitler
rose to power. Instead of being murdered, he became the
world’s most famous refugee.
3. Erwin Schrodinger
Born: August 12, 1887, Vienna, Austria
Died: January 4, 1961, Vienna, Austria
Erwin Schrödinger, most famous for his thought
experiment about a cat, wasn’t Jewish but nevertheless
left Germany in 1934 due to his opposition to Nazism.
Despite having shared the 1933 Nobel prize for physics
for his wave equation , he was shunned by Oxford and
Princeton universities over his unorthodox sexual
relationships. He took a position at the University of
Graz. When Germany took over Austria, his public
opposition to antisemitism and friendship with Einstein
made his position dangerous.
After fleeing Austria, Schrödinger eventually settled in
Ireland, one of the few places that would take him. There,
he played a major part in establishing the school of
theoretical physics at the Dublin Institute of Advanced
Studies, while writing a book (‘What is Life’) that inspired
the discovery of the structure of DNA.
Decades, after he fled for his life, Austria honored Erwin
Schrödinger by putting him on their currency.
Österreichische Nationalbank public domain
4. Salome Gluecksohn-Waelsch
Born: October 6, 1907, Gdańsk, Poland
Died: November 7, 2007, New York City, New York,
The most prominent scientific refugees from Nazi
Germany (Sigmund Freud aside) were physicists, but
Salome Gluecksohn-Waelsch was a geneticist who
helped explain how the cells in a fertilized egg
differentiates into the various roles required for a
As a woman and a Jew, she faced double discrimination
in Germany, fleeing in 1933, and was refused a faculty
position at Columbia because of her gender. Despite
these obstacles, she went on to win the National Medal
of Science and the Thomas Morgan Medal for her
contributions to genetics.