The Nobel Prize in Physics 1979
Sheldon Glashow, Abdus Salam, Steven Weinberg
Sheldon Lee Glashow
Born: 5 December 1932, New York, NY, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Harvard University, Lyman Laboratory, Cambridge, MA, USA
Prize motivation: "for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including, inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current"
Field: Particle physics
My parents, Lewis Glashow and Bella
née Rubin immigrated to New York City from Bobruisk in the
early years of this century. Here they found the freedom and
opportunity denied to Jews in Czarist Russia. After years of
struggle, my father became a successful plumber, and his family
could then enjoy the comforts of the middle class. While my
parents never had the time or money to secure university
education themselves, they were adamant that their children
should. In comfort and in love, we were taught the joys of
knowledge and of work well done. I only regret that neither my
mother nor my father could live to see the day I would accept the
When I was born in Manhattan in 1932, my brothers Samuel and Jules were eighteen and fourteen years old. They chose careers of dentistry and medicine, to my parents' satisfaction. From an early age, I knew I would become a scientist. It may have been my brother Sam's doing. He interested me in the laws of falling bodies when I was ten, and helped my father equip a basement chemistry lab for me when I was fifteen. I became skilled in the synthesis of selenium halides. Never again would I do such dangerous research. Except for the occasional suggestion that I should become a physician and do science in my spare time, my parents always encouraged my scientific inclinations.
Among my chums at the Bronx High School of Science were Gary Feinberg and Steven Weinberg. We spurred one another to learn physics while commuting on the New York subway. Another classmate, Dan Greenberger, taught me calculus in the school lunchroom. High-school mathematics then terminated with solid geometry. At Cornell University, I again had the good fortune to join a talented class. It included the mathematician Daniel Kleitman who was to become my brother-in-law, my old classmate Steven Weinberg, and many others who were to become prominent scientists. Throughout my formal education, I would learn as much from my peers as from my teachers. So it is today among our graduate students.
I came to graduate school at Harvard University in 1954. My thesis supervisor, Julian Schwinger, had about a dozen doctoral students at a time. Getting his ear was as difficult as it was rewarding. I called my thesis "The Vector Meson in Elementary Particle Decays", and it showed an early commitment to an electroweak synthesis. When I completed my work in 1958, Schwinger and I were to write a paper summarizing our thoughts on weak-electromagnetic unification. Alas, one of us lost the first draft of the manuscript, and that was that.
I won an NSF postdoctoral fellowship, and planned to work at the Lebedev Institute in Moscow with I. Tamm, who enthusiastically supported my proposal. I spent the tenure of my fellowship in Copenhagen at the Niels Bohr Institute (and, partly, at CERN), waiting for the Russian visa that was never to come. Perhaps all was for the best, because it was in these years (1958-60) that I discovered the SU(2) x U(1) structure of the electroweak theory. Interestingly, it was also in Copenhagen that my early work on charm with Bjorken was done. This was during a brief return to Denmark in 1964.
During my stay in Europe, I was "discovered" by Murray Gell-Mann. He presented my ideas on the algebraic structure of weak interactions to the 1960 "Rochester meeting" and brought me to Caltech. Then, he invented the eightfold way, which kept Sidney Coleman and me distracted for several years. How we found various electromagnetic formulae, yet missed the discovery of the Gell-Mann-Okubo formula and of the Cabibbo current is another story.
I became an assistant professor at Stanford University and then spent several years on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. During this time, I continued to exploit the phenomenological successes of flavor SU(3) and attempted to understand the departures from exact symmetry as a consequence of spontane23ous symmetry breakdown. I returned to Harvard University in 1966 where I have remained except for leaves to CERN, MIT, and the University of Marseilles. Today, I am Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics at Harvard.
In 1969, John Iliopoulos and Luciano Maiani came to Harvard as research fellows. Together, we found the arguments that predicted the existence of charmed hadrons. Much of my later work was done in collaboration with Alvaro de Rujúla or Howard Georgi. In early 1974, we predicted that charm would be discovered in neutrino physics or in e+ e- annihilation. So it was. With the discovery of the J/Psi particle, we realized that many diverse strands of research were converging on a single theory of physics. I remember once saying to Howard that if QCD is so good, it should explain the Sigma-Lambda mass splitting. The next day he showed that it did. When we spoke, in 1974, of the unification of all elementary particle forces within a simple gauge group, and of the predicted instability of the proton, we were regarded as mad. How things change!
The wild ideas of yesterday quickly become today's dogma. This year I have been honored to participate in the inauguration of the Harvard Core Curriculum Program. My students are not, and will never be, scientists. Nonetheless, in my course "From Alchemy to Quarks" they seem to be as fascinated as I am by the strange story of the search for the ultimate constituents of matter.
I was married in 1972 to the former Joan Alexander. We live in a large old house with our four children, who attend the Brookline public schools.
|A.B. 1954, Cornell University|
|A.M. 1955, Harvard University|
|Ph. D. 1959, Harvard University Married 1972 Joan Shirley Alexander|
|NSF Post-Doctoral Fellow 1958-60|
|Caltech Research Fellow 1960-61|
|Stanford University, Assistant Professor 1961-62|
|University of California, Berkeley, Associate Professor 1962-66|
|Harvard University, Professor 1966-1982|
|CERN, Visiting Scientist 1968|
|University of Marseilles, Visiting Professor 1970|
|MIT, Visiting Professor 1974|
|Brookhaven Laboratory, Consultant 1964|
|Texas A&M University, Visiting Professor 1982|
|University of Houston, Affiliated Senior Scientist, 1982-|
|Boston University, Distinguished Visiting Scientist, 1984-|
|American Physical Society|
|American Association for the Advancement of Science|
|American Academy of Arts and Sciences|
|National Academy of Sciences Honors|
|Westinghouse Science Talent Search Finalist 1950|
|Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship 1962-66|
|Oppenheimer Memorial Medal 1977|
|George Ledlie Award 1978 Honorary Degrees Yeshiva University 1978|
|University of Aix-Marseille 1982|
|Adelphi University 1985|
|Bar-llan University 1988|
|Gustavus Adolphus College 1989|
From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1979, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1980
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.
Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1979
MLA style: "Sheldon Glashow - Autobiography". Nobelprize.org. 23 May 2013 http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1979/glashow.html