© The Nobel Foundation Photo: U. Montan
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2008
Born: 7 February 1940, Nagoya, Japan
Affiliation at the time of the award: Kyoto Sangyo University, Kyoto, Japan, Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics (YITP), Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
Prize motivation: "for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature."
Prize share: 1/4
Toshihide Maskawa was born in Nagoya, Japan. His parents made a living as traders, selling mainly sugar. Toshihide Maskawa chose a different path in life and was accepted to Nagoya University. He earned his PhD in particle physics in 1967 from the same university. He carried out his Nobel Prize-awarded work at Kyoto University. Since that time, he has been affiliated with both Nagoya and Kyoto universities. Toshihide Maskawa is married with two sons.
Physicists long assumed that nature is characterized by symmetry. In a kind of "mirrored world" where right and left changed places and matter was exchanged for antimatter, natural laws would stand. After it was discovered that the decay of certain particles (kaons) was asymmetrical, a mathematics-based explanation for this was presented by Toshihide Maskawa and Makoto Kobayashi in 1972. The explanation meant that there must be at least three families of "quarks" that form matter. This theory was later verified.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.