Murray Gell-Mann, 1969 Nobel Laureate in Physics who identified the quark, died May 24th.
“Murray Gell-Mann was one of the great physicists of the 20th century.”
Historian of physics Graham Farmelo. Nobel Laureate Gell-Mann died May 24th. He was 89. I spoke with Farmelo May 30th at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, the morning after a symposium related to Farmelo’s latest book, The Universe Speaks in Numbers: How Modern Math Reveals Nature’s Deepest Secrets. Gell-Mann appears in the book.
“More, I think, than anybody else in the 1950s and ‘60s, he helped to take us—we human beings—deep into the heart of atomic nuclei, the core of atoms, and help us understand the bewildering variety of those subnuclear particles. It looked like a complete mess. But with Gell-Mann’s physical intuition, his mathematics, his sure-footedness, he enabled us to organize our understanding of those particles. And it was that that led him and another colleague, George Zweig, to identify the quark, which is a particle that is a constituent of the strongly interacting particles, like the proton and neutron. So he was a really big figure ... a tremendously powerful theoretician.
“He liked to stay close to data as well, that’s really important.... I think it’s fair to say that he was pretty much unrivaled as somebody who could interpret these weird particle tracks and what have you, and somehow see the fundamental patterns of the universe in terms of those particle tracks, so to speak....
“Gell-Mann was admired by everyone—feared by some people because of his lacerating wit, his poisonous put-downs and what have you, but he—there was absolutely no doubting his intellectual quality.... Gell-Mann will be remembered as one of the great theoreticians of the 20th century.”
(The above text is a transcript of this podcast)