Tag Archives: Newton-John

Quantum Roots: Family Roots

In honor of the passing of a great entertainer, I share this short guest essay to provide a little more history than is circulating on the web.  We all have family history.  Enjoy finding yours.


In 1882, a baby was born in Germany named Max Born. He grew up to be a physicist at Gottingen University. In 1935, Adolph Hitler personally terminated him from his position because he was born Jewish.

Max Born

Like his close friend Albert Einstein, Max fled Germany, which probably saved his life. He became a professor at Cambridge University. Later, he began working at the University of Edinburgh. There, an amazing nine of his students went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. He himself won the Nobel Prize in 1954. Max is known as one of the fathers of atomic Quantum Mechanics.

Irene (Born) & Brinley Newton-John; Image Credit: Lost Cambridge

His daughter, Irene Born, married a British intelligence officer, Brinley Newton-John, who worked at Bletchley Park and had interrogated Rudolph Hess during the war. Irene gave birth to Max Born’s new granddaughter, Olivia, in 1948.

Olivia went on to win five Grammy awards and be named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

She played Sandy Olsson in the movie adaptation of the Broadway play Grease.

Rest In Peace Olivia Newton John, the granddaughter of a genius, Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Born.

Olivia, credit Julie Parks, AP

Facts assembled and written by Joe Gelman