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Brodetsky, Selig


BRODETSKY, SELIG (1888–1954), mathematician and Zionist leader. Brodetsky, who was born in Olviopol, Ukraine, was brought to London by his family in 1893. He received his early education at the Jewish Free School in London, at the same time attending a talmud torah. The exceptional ability which he early displayed in mathematics earned him a scholarship to Cambridge. At the age of 20 he was given the honors title of Senior Wrangler. He continued his studies in mathematical astronomy at the University of Leipzig and received his doctorate in 1913. In 1914 he returned to England, where he was appointed lecturer in practical mathematics at Bristol and was professor at the University of Leeds from 1920 to 1949. A highly successful educator, he specialized in theoretical aerodynamics, a field vital for the development of the airplane, dealt with in his Mechanical Principles of the Aeroplane (1920). He also wrote on the general theory of relativity and on Newton as well as popular works on mathematics and the sciences. The Meaning of Mathematics (1929) was translated into Dutch, Spanish, and Hebrew. From his earliest youth Brodetsky was a dedicated Zionist. When the Zionist Association was established in Cambridge in 1907, Brodetsky was appointed its secretary. In Leipzig, he served as president of the Zionist Student Organization. In 1928 he became a member of the executive committee of the Zionist Organization in England, and through it, also of the governing body of the Jewish Agency, serving as head of its Political Department in London. In this position he led the struggle against Lord Passfield's White Paper of 1930. He was a loyal supporter of Chaim *Weizmann. From 1939 to 1949 he was president of the *Board of Deputies of British Jews, the first East European Jew to serve in this capacity. He was responsible for bringing this body closer to Zionism. When Weizmann became president of the new State of Israel, Brodetsky succeeded him as president of the British Zionist Federation. Brodetsky was also a member of the board of trustees and of the academic council of the Hebrew University. In 1949, he succeeded Judah *Magnes as president of the Hebrew University, making his home in Israel. For reasons of ill health and because of differences of opinion over the management of the university, he resigned from this position and returned in 1952 to England. Brodetsky was a Fellow of the Royal Societies of Astronomy (fras) and of Aeronautics (frae-s) and for some time was also the president of the Association of University Teachers in England. He was the president of the World Organization of Maccabi. His biographical work, Memoirs – From Ghetto to Israel, was published posthumously in 1960.

[Yehudah Pinhas /

Leo Kohn]

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