On 'Jaffe'

Despite the last decade and a half or more of the internet, I’ve never bothered to actually work out the meaning and history of my surname, “Jaffe”. Somehow I always thought it was connected to the town of Jaffa, near Tel Aviv. But in fact, 30 seconds of searching turns up information that the name comes from the Hebrew yafeh (יפה, meaning “beautiful”) and dates at least from Rabbi Mordecai Jaffe in 16th-century Prague. I was also happy to discover that, with at least half a millennium behind us, there are plenty of interesting Jaffes in history and today (although I had to be careful not to be waylaid by the possibility that we’re actually Irish…).

Of course there are a lot of physicists: Arthur and Robert, as well as several astronomers who don’t quite rate a wikipedia page (yet!): Walter, Daniel and Tess (who is one of my collaborators on Planck). But also actors — Sam, Nicole and Marielle, composers — David and Stephen, and even athletes — Peter and Scott. And there really is an Irish connection: Sir Otto, once the Lord Mayor of Belfast, born in Hamburg, lived and worked in New York as well as Ireland.