The Nobel Prize in Physics 1984
Born: 31 March 1934, Gorizia, Italy
Affiliation at the time of the award: CERN, Geneva, Switzerland
Prize motivation: “for their decisive contributions to the large project, which led to the discovery of the field particles W and Z, communicators of weak interaction”
Prize share: 1/2
Carlo Rubbia was born in Gorizia, Italy. His father was an engineer at the local telephone company and his mother was a teacher. After World War II, the area was annexed by Yugoslavia, after which Rubbia's family fled to Venice and later moved to Udine. After studying in Pisa, Rubbia spent a couple of years at Columbia University in New York. In 1960 he began working at the newly inaugurated European particle physics laboratory, CERN, with which he has been affiliated ever since. Rubbia has also worked at Harvard University. He is married with two children.
According to modern physics, four fundamental forces are at work in nature. Weak interaction, which, for example, causes beta decay in atomic nuclei, is one of these. In theory, these forces are conveyed by particles—the weak interaction by W and Z particles. Carlo Rubbia proposed and led experiments that, by allowing protons and antiprotons to collide at very high speeds, would prove the existence of these particles. In this way, the existence of W and Z particles was verified in 1983.
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