About Leonard Salomon Ornstein

In May 1941, Het Joodsche Weekblad published an obituary for Dr Leonard Salomon Ornstein. In the obituary, Ornstein is described as: 'Dr Leonard Salomon Ornstein, former Lecturer-Director of the Fysics Lab of Utrecht University, member of the Dutch Science Academy, corresponding honourable member of the Kungl. Fysiografiska Sällskapet in Lund, Sweden, Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion'.

The same edition of the weekly contains an obituary. Leonard Salomon Ornstein was 60 years old when he died. He was described as 'one of the great physicists of recent years and for years one of the most prominent personalities in the Zionist movement in the Netherlands'. Ornstein studied maths and physics in Leiden, where he obtained his doctoral degree in 1908. Three months after getting his PhD, he was already ranked second on the list for professor at a Dutch University. For a brief period, he was assistant to Nobelprizewinner Lorentz. In 1909, he accepted a chair in theoretical physics. In 1915, he was appointed in Utrecht, where he was also appointed professor in experimental physics in 1920. Further to the memberships mentioned in the obituary, he was also a member of the 'Bataafsche Genootschap', extraordinary member of the Patenting Council, chairman of the 'Warmtestichting', ex-chairman of the Technical Association etc. He was honorary doctor of a few foreign universities.

Ornstein did important research in the field of radiobiology, which earned him a large grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1938, his students published a book on his research in his honour and on the occasion of his silver jubilee as professor in Utrecht on 26 January 1940, he was offered a documentary film about his work.

Ornstein played an important role in the Zionist movement. He prepared the conference held in Den Hague in 1908 of the Zionist World Organisation. He was on the Executive of the NZB for many years and was chairman of the Association between 1918 to 1920.

Ornstein did a lot of work for the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was a curator of the university and chairman of its physics section. In the process, he supervised and made recommendations for appointments in the faculty of Physics. He was chairman of the League of Friends of the Hebrew University.

A week after the first message, another In Memoriam appeared in het Joodsche Weekblad, this time more descriptive of his personality and the Zionist principles of L.S. Ornstein:

'Ornstein had a healthy sense of ambition. When ambition is mentioned, it often has negative connotations. But Ornstein's ambition was one of the strong motives for his forceful personality. He felt the need to be in the foreground, but also to excel, everywhere he went, in his science and his work. Partly thanks to his ambition, he managed to achieve that. Does the image of such a personality not correspond to a desire for excellence, but also for authority and appreciation for what he knew to be outstanding, both in others and in himself?

To a large extent, his ambition also applied to his People, to which he found the way during his student years. In his youth, he had not been imparted much in terms of Jewish spiritual values. He did not particularly belong to those who deem the possession of those values sufficient reason for the Jewish people to exist. This People had to acquire a better life for itself by outstanding achievements in every domain. Knowledge of Judaism did not constitute a sufficient basis for Ornstein to be the foundation for an automatic new Jewish future. Modern Zionism led him to Judaism. When the propaganda first started among Dutch Jewish students, forty years ago, Herzl's call also got a hearing with the young Ornstein. Political Zionism, the discipline that the Jewish People had to build its own future, with dignity and in full public view, in the interest of the whole of humanity and with its support, fitted with Ornstein's personality. This is the Zionism he remained loyal to, his life long, throughout all the developments of the Movement and its work'.
//Het Joodsche Weekblad, 23 May 1941, 11;
Het Joodsche Weekblad, 30 May 1941, 5//