Rolf Landshoff



Rolf Karl Michael Landshoff
Born: November 30, 1911, Berlin Germany
Married: Miriam Wilder January 4, 1941, Minneapolis, Minnesota
In 1983, the Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center, Palo Alto, California, published a "Profile: Rolf Landshoff". Following is the text of that Profile.

Letter from Albert Einstein which helped Rolf come to the United States.

"The Mr. Rolf Landshoff to whom Albert Einstein refers is now a 71 year old resident of Palo Alto, a regular at our Fitness Center, and one of the team who worked on the hydrogen bomb at Los Alamos.

Landshoff, a native of Germany, graduated from the Institute of Technology in Berlin in 1934, and went on for his Ph.D. in Engineering, which he received in 1936. At this point, Einstein's letter was his ticket out of Nazi Germany. His mother, a non-Jew, remained in Germany, survived the Holocaust, and eventually emigrated to the U.S. His Jewish father died before Hitler came to power.

Landshoff was invited to the U.S. by a Jewish fraternity in Minnesota. He earned another Ph.D., this one in Physics from the University of Minnesota in 1938, and then accepted a position at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He married in 1941 and became a U.S. citizen in 1944. Within one week of receiving his citizenship, Landshoff also received a telegram from the University of Chicago. He was asked to interview with Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner (the latter, who was to later win a Nobel Prize, had been a professor of Landshoff's in Berlin). They described two job possibilities. Landshoff accepted the one that would necessitate a move to "a very beautiful spot in the southwestern U.S." The job sounded "very romantic." The place, of course was Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the job involved fascinating work for a young physicist: an opportunity to work directly with the likes of Niels Bohr, Hans Bethe, John von Neumann, Enrico Fermi, and even some young upstarts, such as Richard Feynman. Landshoff recalls, that of all his distinguished colleagues, Enrico Fermi impressed him as having the most brilliant mind.

When the war was over, Landshoff got a job at Catholic University, through his former boss, Edward Teller. However, in 1947, he contracted polio and was far too weak to move. He recovered slowly and stayed on at Los Alamos doing "controlled thermonuclear work", until 1956. Then, since his wife Miriam had never enjoyed the lonely existence she led as one of the "outsiders" from the rarefied scientific community at Los Alamos, Landshoff accepted a job at Lockheed. There he continued to work in applied physics, all of which is classified. Landshoff spent 1963-4 at the prestigious Weizmann Institute in Israel. He retired from Lockheed in 1976.

Landshoff has four children, one son and three daughters. His youngest daughter, Harriet Lehrbaum, has two sons, Daniel and Jacob, both of whom are enrolled in Ta'Enna Nursery School. His wife Miriam has recently returned to school at San Jose State.

Landshoff is now working as a consultant for Science Applications Inc. (SAI), a privately owned research company. He bicycles daily from his Palo Alto Square office to the Center for his regular swim and also enjoys cross country skiing. He studies Hebrew as a hobby, and often works on the computer which he and his son-in-law, Richard Lehrbaum, built.

Occasionally, Landshoff visits Los Alamos, now, as a consultant. With hindsight, he still feels that the bomb is sufficiently dangerous that it won't be used - but that it looms in the background as a protector of peace. "The power that we have has kept peace with our major adversary," he says."


Last revision: 6/2/96

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