In a hundred-year period, a handful of men and women changed the way we see the world. Many of them are well known – Marx, Freud, Proust, Einstein, Kafka. Others have vanished from collective memory despite their enduring importance in our daily lives. Without Karl Landsteiner, for instance, there would be no blood transfusions or major surgery. Without Paul Ehrlich no chemotherapy. Without Siegfried Marcus no motor car. Without Rosalind Franklin genetic science would look very different. Without Fritz Haber there would not be enough food to sustain life on earth.
What do these visionaries have in common? They all have Jewish origins. They all have a gift for thinking outside the box and all of them think fast. In 1847 the Jewish people made up less than 0.25% of the world’s population, and yet they saw what others could not. How?
Norman Lebrecht is the world’s bestselling author on classical music. His Whitbread Award-winning novel, The Song of Names, is currently being developed into a feature film. Aside from the history of Western music, he has a lifelong passion for the culture and chronicles of the Jewish people. He lives in London.