The Nobel Prize in Physics 1988
Born: 2 November 1932, New York, NY, USA
Died: 28 August 2006, Twin Falls, ID, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Digital Pathways, Inc., Mountain View, CA, USA
Prize motivation: “for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino”
Prize share: 1/3
In decays of certain elementary particles, neutrinos are produced; particles that occasionally interact with matter to produce electrons. Melvin Schwartz, Leon Lederman, and Jack Steinberger managed to create a beam of neutrinos using a high-energy accelerator. In 1962, they discovered that, in some cases, instead of producing an electron, a muon (200 times heavier than an electron) was produced, proving the existence of a new type of neutrino, the muon neutrino. These particles, collectively called “leptons”, could then be systematically classified in families.