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Murray Gell-Mann

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Murray Gell-Mann

Murray Gell-Mann
Murray Gell-Mann at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, 2012
Born (1929-09-15) September 15, 1929
Manhattan, New York City, United States
Residence United States
Citizenship United States
Nationality American
Fields Physics
Institutions Santa Fe Institute
University of New Mexico
University of Southern California
California Institute of Technology
University of Chicago
Alma mater Yale University (B.S.)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Ph.D.)
Doctoral advisor Victor Weisskopf
Doctoral students Kenneth G. Wilson
Sidney Coleman
Rod Crewther
James Hartle
Christopher T. Hill
H. Jay Melosh
Barton Zwiebach
Known for Coining the term 'quark'
Elementary particles
Effective complexity
Gell-Mann and Low theorem
Gell-Mann−Low renormalization group equation
Gell-Mann matrices
Gell-Mann–Nishijima formula
Gell-Mann–Okubo mass formula
Notable awards Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics (1959)
E. O. Lawrence Award (1966)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1969)
Spouse J. Margaret Dow (1955-1981; 2 children)
Marcia Southwick (m. 1992; 1 stepchild)

Murray Gell-Mann (; born September 15, 1929) is an American physicist who received the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles. He is the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, a Distinguished Fellow and co-founder of the Santa Fe Institute, Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of New Mexico, and the Presidential Professor of Physics and Medicine at the University of Southern California.[1]

He introduced, independently of quark - constituents of all hadrons - having first identified the SU(3) flavor symmetry of hadrons. This symmetry is now understood to underlie the light quarks, extending isospin to include strangeness, a quantum number which he also discovered.

He developed the V−A theory of the weak interaction in collaboration with Richard Feynman. In the 1960s, he introduced current algebra as a method of systematically exploiting symmetries to extract predictions from quark models, in the absence of reliable dynamical theory. This method led to model-independent sum rules confirmed by experiment and provided starting points underpinning the development of the standard theory of elementary particles.

Gell-Mann, along with Maurice Lévy, developed the sigma model of pions, which describes low-energy pion interactions. Modifying the integer-charged quark model of Moo-Young Han and Yoichiro Nambu, Harald Fritzsch and Gell-Mann were the first to write down the modern accepted theory of quantum chromodynamics, although they did not anticipate asymptotic freedom. In 1969 he received the Nobel Prize in physics for his contributions and discoveries concerning the classification of elementary particles and their interactions.[2]

Gell-Mann is responsible, together with Pierre Ramond and Richard Slansky, and independently of Peter Minkowski, Rabindra Mohapatra, Goran Senjanovic, Sheldon Lee Glashow, and Tsutomu Yanagida, for the see-saw theory of neutrino masses, that produces masses at the large scale in any theory with a right-handed neutrino. He is also known to have played a large role in keeping string theory alive through the 1970s and early 1980s, supporting that line of research at a time when it was unpopular.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Physics career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Awards and honors 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Early life and education

Gell-Mann was born in lower Manhattan into a family of Jewish immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[3][4] His parents were Pauline (Reichstein) and Arthur Isidore Gell-Mann, who taught English as a second language.[5]

Propelled by an intense boyhood curiosity and love for nature and mathematics, he graduated valedictorian from the Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School and subsequently entered Yale at the age of 15 as a member of Jonathan Edwards College. At Yale, he participated in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition and was on the team representing Yale University (along with Murray Gerstenhaber and Henry O. Pollak) that won the second prize in 1947. Gell-Mann earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Yale University in 1948, and a PhD in physics from MIT in 1951. Gell-Mann's advisor at MIT was Victor Weisskopf.

Physics career

In 1958, Gell-Mann and Robert Marshak, discovered the chiral structures of the weak interaction in physics. This work followed the experimental discovery of the violation of parity by Chien-Shiung Wu, as suggested by Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee, theoretically.

Gell-Mann's work in the 1950s involved recently discovered cosmic ray particles that came to be called kaons and hyperons. Classifying these particles led him to propose that a quantum number called strangeness would be conserved by the strong and the electromagnetic interactions, but not by the weak interactions. Another of Gell-Mann's ideas is the Gell-Mann-Okubo formula, which was, initially, a formula based on empirical results, but was later explained by his quark model. Gell-Mann and Abraham Pais were involved in explaining several puzzling aspects of the physics of these particles.

In 1961, this led him (and Kazuhiko Nishijima) to introduce a classification scheme for hadrons, elementary particles that participate in the strong interaction. (This scheme had been independently proposed by Yuval Ne'eman.) This scheme is now explained by the quark model. Gell-Mann referred to the scheme as the Eightfold Way, because of the octets of particles in the classification. (The term is a reference to the eightfold way of Buddhism.)

In 1964, Gell-Mann and, independently, quarks, particles of which the hadrons of this scheme are composed. The name was coined by Gell-Mann and is a reference to the novel Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce ("Three quarks for Muster Mark!" book 2, episode 4.) Zweig had referred to the particles as "aces",[6] but Gell-Mann's name caught on. Quarks, antiquarks, and gluons were soon established as the underlying elementary objects in the study of the structure of hadrons. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in physics in 1969 for his contributions and discoveries concerning the classification of elementary particles and their interactions.[7]

In 1972 he and Harald Fritzsch introduced the conserved quantum number "color charge", and later, together with Heinrich Leutwyler, they coined the term quantum chromodynamics (QCD) as the gauge theory of the strong interaction. The quark model is a part of QCD, and it has been robust enough to naturally accommodate the discovery of new "flavors" of quarks, which superseded the eightfold way scheme.

During the 1990s, Gell-Mann's interest turned to the emerging study of complexity. He played a central role in the founding of the Santa Fe Institute, where he continues to work as a distinguished professor.

He wrote a popular science book about these matters, The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex. The title of the book is taken from a line of a poem by Arthur Sze: "The world of the quark has everything to do with a jaguar circling in the night".[8]

The author biography of Gell-Mann, which is titled Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann, and the Revolution in 20th-Century Physics, which Dr. Gell-Mann has criticized as inaccurate. The Nobel Prize–winning physicist Philip Anderson, in his chapter on Gell-Mann,[9] says that Johnson's biography is excellent. Both Anderson and Johnson say that Gell-Mann is a perfectionist and that his semibiographical, The Quark and the Jaguar is consequently incomplete.

Personal life

Gell-Mann married Marcia Southwick in 1992, after the death of his first wife, J. Margaret Dow (d. 1981), whom he married in 1955. His children are Elizabeth Sarah Gell-Mann (b. 1956) and Nicholas Webster Gell-Mann (b. 1963); and he has a stepson, Nicholas Southwick Levis (b. 1978).

Gell-Mann has interests in birdwatching, collecting antiques, ranching, historical linguistics, archaeology, natural history, the psychology of creative thinking, other subjects connected with biological, and cultural evolution and with learning.[2][10] Along with S. A. Starostin, he established the Evolution of Human Languages project[11] at the Santa Fe Institute.

He is currently the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus at California Institute of Technology as well as a University Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Presidential Professor of Physics and Medicine at the University of Southern California. He is a member of the editorial board of the Encyclopædia Britannica. In 1984 Gell-Mann co-founded the Santa Fe Institute—a non-profit theoretical research institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico—to study complex systems and disseminate the notion of a separate interdisciplinary study of complexity theory.

He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1951, and a visiting research professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign from 1952 to 1953. He was a visiting associate professor at Columbia University and an associate professor at the University of Chicago in 1954-55 before moving to the California Institute of Technology, where he taught from 1955 until he retired in 1993.

As a humanist and an agnostic, Gell-Mann is a Humanist Laureate in the International Academy of Humanism.[12][13]

Gell-Mann endorsed Barack Obama for the United States presidency in October 2008.[14]

Awards and honors

See also


  1. ^ "Nobel Prize Winner Appointed Presidential Professor at USC". 
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ M. Gell-Mann (October 1997). "My Father".  
  4. ^ J. Brockman (2003). "The Making of a Physicist: A talk with Murray Gell-Mann".  
  5. ^
  6. ^ G. Zweig (1980) [1964]. "An SU(3) model for strong interaction symmetry and its breaking II". In D. Lichtenberg and S. Rosen. Developments in the Quark Theory of Hadrons 1.  
  7. ^ [1] Nobel Prize in Physics, 1969
  8. ^ "Murray Gell-Mann - Physicist - The decision to write "The Quark and the Jaguar" - Web of Stories". 
  9. ^ Anderson, Philip W. (2011). "Ch. V Genius. Search for Polymath's Elementary Particles". More and Different: Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon. World Scientific. pp. 241–2.  Philip Anderson, More and Different, Chapter V, World Scientific, 2011.
  10. ^ SANTA FE, New Mexico (NM) Political Contributions by Individuals
  11. ^  
  12. ^ The International Academy of Humanism at the website of the Council for Secular Humanism. Retrieved 18 October 2007. Some of this information is also at the International Humanist and Ethical Union website
  13. ^  
  14. ^
  15. ^ "John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  16. ^

Further reading

  • Biography and Bibliographic Resources, from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, United States Department of Energy
  • Encyclopædia Britannica's Biography of Murray Gell-Mann
  • Fritzsch, H.; Gell-Mann, M.; Leutwyler, H. (26 November 1973). "Advantages of the color octet gluon picture" (PDF). Physics Letters B 47 (4): 365–8.  
  • Fritzsch, H.; Gell-Mann, M. (1972). "Current algebra- quarks and what else?". In Jackson, J.D.; Roberts, A.; International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. Proceedings of the XVI International Conference on High Energy Physics 2. National Accelerator Laboratory. pp. 135–165.  
  • Murray Gell-Mann tells his life story at Web of Stories
  • Strange Beauty home page
  • The Making of a Physicist: A Talk With Murray Gell-Mann
  • Berreby, D. (8 May 1994). "The Man Who Knows Everything". New York Times. 
  • The Man With Five Brains
  • The many worlds of Murray Gell-Mann
  • The Simple and the Complex, Part I: The Quantum and the Quasi-Classical with Murray Gell-Mann, Ph.D.
  • Nobel Prize Biography

External links

  • Biography and Bibliographic Resources, from the Department of Energy, Office of Scientific & Technical Information
  • Gell-Mann's Home Page at SFI
  • TED Talks: Murray Gell-Mann on beauty and truth in physics at TED in 2007
  • TED Talks: Murray Gell-Mann on the ancestor of language at TED
  • Murray Gell-Mann Video Interview with the Academy of Achievement in 1990
  • Murray Gell-Mann talks quarks (Video)
  • Murray Gell-Mann at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
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