Murray Gell-Mann: The Man Who Named Quarks, dies at 90

On May 24,2019, the physics world lost one of its ultimate gems, Murray Gell-Mann. Born on September 15,1929, Murray Gell-Mann was an American theoretical physicist who won the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles.

Murray Gell-Mann

Early life and Education

Born in lower Manhattan into a family of Jewish immigrants, he was a child prodigy. As a child, he was always curious to explore the secrets of nature and had a great inclination towards mathematics. As a result, he graduated valedictorian from the Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School. Then, he entered the  Yale College at the age of 15 . At Yale, he participated in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical competition, where his team won the second prize. Gell-Mann earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Yale in 1948. Along with this, he completed his PhD in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1951 under the guidance of  Victor Weisskopf.

Major Contributions

Dr. Gell-Mann made some significant contributions in the field of particle physics. One of Dr. Gell-Mann’s most widely hailed achievements was the proposal of eightfold way theory. It was a scheme that brought order out of the chaos created by the discovery of some 100 kinds of particles in collisions involving atomic nuclei. Gell-Mann found that all of those particles, including the neutron and proton, are composed of fundamental building blocks that he named “quarks,”. The quarks are permanently confined by forces coming from the exchange of “gluons.”Also, he along with others later constructed the quantum field theory of quarks and gluons, called “quantum chromodynamics,” . Besides this, Gell-Mann made his name by doing pioneering work in the development of the “standard model” of particle physics. Infact, he also gave ground breaking ideas to better understand the interactions of subatomic particles.

Awards and honours

In addition to being a Nobel Laureate, Professor Gell-Mann also received the Dannie Heineman Prize of the American Physical Society in 1959. He was a Fellow of this society and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Moreover, during his last days, he served as the Distinguished Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute and the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology.Infact, he held many other distinguished research and teaching positions and received many other honours.

Murray Gell-Mann was one of the most prominent physicists our world has ever witnessed. According to Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech,

"Much of what we currently understand about particle physics was invented by Murray Gell-Mann,". 

"He was a towering influence in the field."
Rest in peace Sir! The physics world will always miss you.

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