Three quarks for muster mark! Sure he hasn't got much of a bark And sure any he has it's all beside the mark. —James Joyce, Finnegans Wake
As he later explained in his 1995 book The Quark and the Jaguar, physicist Murray Gell-Mann had the sound of his theorized particle in mind before discovering the spelling he would eventually adopt from a book James Joyce published in 1939. “The number three fitted perfectly the way quarks occur in nature,” Gell-Mann wrote, referring to how three quarks make up a proton, itself a component, along with the electron and neutron, of atoms. Although George Zweig, who also theorized this fundamental particle in 1964, preferred the term “ace,” quark eventually stuck.
This article was originally published with the title Of Quarks and (Presidential) Men.