Hispanic Heritage Month: Albert Baez and Raul Julia

Compiled and written by Adrian Clark, RVU Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Albert Baez

Albert Baez was a Mexican-born physicist who, while a Stanford graduate student, collaborated with his advisor, Paul Kirkpatrick, to invent the first X-ray reflection microscope.

Folk singer and activist Joan Baez (center) poses for a portrait with Albert Baez (l), her father, and Joan Bridge Baez (r), her mother(Photo by David Gahr/Getty Images)

Baez was born in Mexico in 1912. In 1916, his family immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in New York. Albert was consequently raised in Brooklyn where his father, a Methodist minister, established a new Spanish church. Although initially entertaining the idea of becoming a minister himself, Albert instead decided to pursue his interests in physics and mathematics.

He earned a master’s degree in mathematics from Syracuse University and was accepted into the physics doctoral program at Stanford. In 1948, while still a student at Stanford, Baez co-invented the X-ray reflection microscope. His contribution to the invention—the development of a technique to use diffraction rather than refraction to focus X-rays—was instrumental in the development of subsequent scientific equipment, including the X-ray telescope.

He settled on an academic career, becoming a professor of physics. He worked with UNESCO to establish a physics department at Baghdad University in Iraq and later became the first Director of the Science Education Program for UNESCO in Paris.

He authored two physics textbooks, wrote a memoir describing his time in Baghdad, and created one hundred educational films about physics for Encyclopedia Britannica. He received many honors and awards.

He died in 2007 at the age of 94. One of his daughters has since surpassed his fame: throughout the 60s and 70s, Joan Baez became one of the most influential folk singers.

Raul Julia

Raul Raphael Julia Arcelay was a renowned stage and screen actor who was known professionally as Raul Julia.

Raul was born in 1940 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He grew up in an environment where he was surrounded by creativity: his mother was a singer and several of his extended family members were musicians. His father was an electrical engineer who also became a restauranteur, crediting himself with introducing pizza and “chicken-in-a-basket” to the island.

Julia attended private schools where he developed an interest in acting. By the time he reached seventh grade, he was fluent in English and began to read Shakespeare. Although he continued to act in both high school and college, he initially aspired to study law. Against his parents’ wishes, he decided to pursue an acting career. He spent several years performing in Puerto Rico before setting off for New York at the age of twenty-four.

He attended acting school and performed off-Broadway in New York before he received his first Broadway role in 1968. From there, his career began to take shape. He continued to perform in New York and earned roles on television, including a recurring role on Sesame Street, and in motion pictures.

He received his Tony nominations in 1972, 1974, and 1976; he also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. He received his first Golden Globe Nomination for his performance in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” in 1983. By 1987, he was one of Hollywood’s “busiest actors”. He continued to appear in both movies and theater, including appearances as Gomez Adams in two “Addams Family” movies.

By 1994, stomach cancer had sent his health into decline. He suffered a stroke and died in Long Island at the age of 54. His last film project was “The Burning Season,” for which he was posthumously awarded the Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Emmy Award.

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