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Imre Friedman was born in 1921 in Budapest, Hungary. In high school he received straight A’s and placed 3rd in Hungary’s National High School Science Competition. Higher education was always his goal, but by the time he was ready for college in 1939, it was almost impossible for Jews to attend a university in Hungary due to antisemitic restrictions.  He finally was able to enroll in a university where he endured terrible discrimination from both students and professors.  

In 1944, Hungary was invaded by the Nazis, and Imre, like many Jewish men, was forced into hard labor.  Luckily, he survived the labor camp and was later saved from being deported to a concentration camp by a very courageous person who impersonated a guard. 

After World War II, Imre escaped from Hungary to Vienna where he studied and received his PhD in botany, zoology, and philosophy in 1951. In 1952, Imre was legally able to immigrate to Israel where he became a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. 

Imre met Naomi Krausz in Israel on a blind date, and they married in 1953.  Naomi, as the spouse of a faculty member, could enroll for free at Hebrew National University where she received a PhD in biochemistry. The couple immigrated to the United States with their daughter, Daphna. They divorced soon after their arrival in the US.

Imre became a highly successful professor at Florida State University. He was well-known in his field and is mentioned in Carl Sagan’s famous book Cosmos.  He was featured in National Geographic and Discover magazine, amongst others. 

Imre and his second wife moved to Seattle in 2005. He died in 2007.

Imre’s daughter, Daphna Robon, tells her father's story as a member of the Center’s Speakers Bureau.