Michael Berkowitz, a native of Rochester, NY, is a professor of modern Jewish history at University College London (UCL) and author of Jews and Photography in Britain (University of Texas Press, 2015), and since 2012, editor of Jewish Historical Studies: Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England (UCL Press). His previous publications include The Crime of My Very Existence: Nazism and the Myth of Jewish Criminality (University of California Press, 2007), Zionist Culture and West European Jewry before the First World War (Cambridge University Press, 1993), and “We Are Here”: New Approaches to Jewish Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany, coedited with Avinoam J. Patt (Wayne State University Press, 2010). He is preparing a book, Washington’s (Nearly) Secret Hollywood Connection, for the University of Pennsylvania Press about American Jews and movie-making during the Second World War. He has held fellowships in the last few years at the Remarque Institute of New York University, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, DC), and Yad Vashem (Jerusalem). He is a graduate of Hobart College (BA, 1981) and the University of Wisconsin (MA, 1983; PhD, 1989).
As a Cain Senior Fellow at the Science History Institute (April–July 2022), Berkowitz investigated the history of color photography with particular attention to ethnic difference. This builds on his research on the Kodachrome process and its classical-musician coinventors, Leopold Mannes and Leopold Godowsky Jr. While Edwin Land’s Jewish origins are typically acknowledged, the possibility that Jewishness was an ongoing factor in the life of Land and Polaroid is rarely entertained. The Institute’s oral histories of Elkan Blout, Roald Hoffmann, Gilbert Stork, and Lubert Stryer offer perspectives that are distinct, in this regard, from existing historiography. In addition to following leads from these scientists, Berkowitz used the extensive papers of Myron S. Simon, including notes from his classes with Stork and his unpublished “photo-novel.” The Simon collection promises to be of tremendous value because the founder and chief scientist of Polaroid, Edwin Land, did not preserve his personal papers. Lacunae to be illuminated by Simon are likely to reveal sensitivity to the plight of refugees and émigrés. Berkowitz’s project complements research he has conducted over the last dozen years on the Jewish engagement with photography as well as his personal experience at Eastman Kodak’s film emulsion melting division in the 1970s.