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Historic Havens: Great Minds of New Jersey

By Lori Draz

It’s back-to-school time, and to inspire you to do all your homework, Historic Havens is going to focus on some of the most brilliant minds of the Garden State. New Jersey has led the way in technology, medicine, the arts and many other arenas.

No discussion of the brilliant minds of New Jersey would be complete without talking about Thomas Edison. I’m sure a light bulb has just come on in your head, and yes, Edison did invent the incandescent lightbulb and phonograph, but he has 1,093 U.S. patents including his first: the electrographic vote recorder which Edison received when he was only 22 years old. The device was connected to a clerk’s desk where legislators sent yes or no responses via electric currents to the device itself. 

Albert Einstein’s salon remains preserved in Princeton. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Princeton

For a deep look at the life of the Wizard of Menlo Park, visit the fascinating museum adjacent to the 36-acre Edison State Park, Thomas Edison Center of Menlo Park at 37 Christie St. in Edison. Historic Havens will be doing an in-depth tour in the future, but until then, visit MenloParkMuseum.org. They offer unique programs specifically tailored to meet the Scouts Adventure Requirements. There are also special tours for schools or groups and a calendar of special and seasonal events throughout the year. 

Considered one of the greatest scientific and mathematical minds, Albert Einstein lived at 112 Mercer St. in Princeton from 1933 to 1955. The Historical Society of Princeton has a permanent exhibit on the first floor of the farmhouse at the Updike Farmstead called the Einstein Salon and Innovators Gallery. There, you will see some of this renowned thinker’s photographs, documents, as well as furniture from Einstein’s home, including his writing desk – complete with ink spill. For a peek at some of the items and to plan your visit, visit PrincetonHistory.org. 

It’s almost surprising that more tributes to Einstein don’t exist in Princeton, but that is changing as the Princeton Einstein Museum of Science takes shape. This museum is being developed to focus of the life of Einstein and his years in Princeton and will include interactive STEAM exhibits as well as an immersive video exhibit and art gallery. If you would like to learn more about the life of Einstein and sign up for updates on the museum’s progress, visit PrincetonEinsteinMuseum.org. 

Edward C. Hazard is buried at Christ Church in Shrewsbury.

Rumson has been the home of many notable figures, including the oldest person to ever become a Nobel Laureate. On Oct. 2, 2018, Dr. Arthur Ashkin was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics at the age of 96 for his groundbreaking work on the discovery of “optical tweezers” which allow the manipulation of atoms, microscopic objects and living organisms with laser beams. 

Ashkin began working in the field of microwaves and later focused on laser research at the former Bell Labs (now Bell Works). He retired from Bell Labs in 1992 but continued his work in a custom laboratory that he built in his Rumson home, which he shared with his wife, Aline, a former chemistry instructor at Holmdel High School who taught the children of many of the Bell Labs research scientists. The couple met at Cornell University in the 1950s and remained married until his death at age 98. Ashkin held 47 patents and received numerous awards and honors in his career including being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2013. Well-known to many in Rumson, the couple was loyal members of Congregation B’nai Israel in Rumson.  

Curiously, Ashkin had a brother, Julius, who was also a brilliant physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

Condiment lovers should know about Shrewsbury’s Edward C. Hazard, “The King of Ketchup.” In the late 1880s, most of the land from Sycamore Avenue to Little Silver was farmland and the home of many of Hazard’s “Shrewsbury Products” that included canned mushrooms, peppers, jellies, mayonnaise and his crowd-pleasing Shrewsbury ketchup. 

He purchased much of his produce from local farmers including “love apples,” a romantic name for the beloved Jersey tomatoes. Hazard’s “Shrewsbury Ketchup” was sold worldwide and won first place awards at the World’s Fairs and Expositions.

His ketchup made Hazard a millionaire many times over, which allowed him and his family to live in a luxurious 40-room mansion called Sycamore Manor on Sycamore Avenue. 

The home, sadly, was torn down, but you can visit Hazard in his beloved Shrewsbury where he rests under an elaborate headstone in the Christ Church cemetery.  

And that is just lesson one in the history of great minds of New Jersey. Feel free to be inspired and read up on these and some others, and maybe your name will be featured in the next installment!

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