Monday, March 28, 2022

Anti-Semitism in hiring in American chemistry

Via the New York Times, this obituary of Professor Martin Pope (emphasis mine): 
Martin Pope, a physical chemist whose fundamental work on molecular semiconductors more than 60 years ago led to the development of organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, which are used in digital cameras, mobile phones, solar panels and televisions, died on Sunday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 103.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Deborah Pope, who did not specify a cause...

...In 1938, as an undergraduate at the City College of New York studying physical chemistry, the 20-year-old Isidore Poppick published a research paper in the prestigious Journal of the American Chemical Society.

After serving as a first lieutenant in the Army Air Forces in World War II, he sought employment. Aware of an undercurrent of antisemitism, Dr. Pope applied in 1946 for a position at the American Cyanamid Company using two names: Isidore Poppick, with the published paper listed on his résumé, and Martin Pope, with no such record.

“Martin Pope received an application, and Isidore Poppick received a notice that no positions were available,” Dr. Pope said. “I decided to use Martin Pope as my new name.” One of Dr. Pope’s brothers also changed his name to Pope when he encountered similar prejudice while looking for work.

In 1946, Dr. Pope took a position as a research scientist at Balco Research Laboratories, a small industrial research laboratory in Newark. Also that year, he married Lillie Bellin, a high-school teacher; they remained married until her death in 2015.

 Makes you wonder who was screening applications for American Cyanamid in 1946....


  1. I wonder how much of this was anti-Semitism versus anti-immigrant. Do the same experiment today with a Chinese, Indian, and white-sounding name, and you might get the same result.

    1. Pope was born in the USA. Anti-Semitism was very widespread throughout the English-speaking world in that era, and in some places, for some time afterward. Changing one's name to "fit in" was very common.

    2. Around ten years ago, my friend in grad school was/is a grad student in engineering at a somewhat prestigious school for engineering. He is South American but he looks white, has an "american" sounding last name, doesn't have an accent or anything. He was complaining to me that he is not even getting interview requests. I asked him if he was putting hispanic on his job applications or white/not hispanic and he said he was marking that he was hispanic. I said, try putting white on there instead.

      He literally had requests for interviews from 100% of his applications from that point forward. I know this is an n of 1 data point, but to go from 0% to 100% from job applications is a pretty obvious, and quite sad. But I'm happy for him now because he's already working at the corporate headquarters for a very famous company and appears to be on the fast track towards VP/president type status in some years if things keep progressing for him.

  2. Richard Feynman mentioned anti-Semitic club at the department of philosophy at Cornell after the war. And just before WWII, there were "Jewish student quotas" that prevented him from studying at Columbia, he had to go to MIT instead. And there he could not join a fraternity of his choice, had to go to "jewish fraternity".

    I think this nonsense was more prevalent on the East coast where the WASP elites worried about jews becoming too prominent in the upper crust of "their" society.

    1. Sounds a lot like the current situation where the Ivy League schools set the bar much higher for Asian applicants. The current elites are scared to death of Asian and Indian kids taking their kids' places in college admissions and upper-class society.

    2. It was widespread in Canada too.

      There is a famous story of Alfred Bader (founder of Aldrich) being accepted to Queens University (which he later donated gazillions of dollars to) after not making it past the Jewish quota at McGill University. The irony in this is that Queens had, and still has, a reputation as being the choice university of the WASP elite (with a very low population of ethnic minorities even as Canada became more diverse)

  3. Now we have non-jabbed discrimination for the work place.


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