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Murray Gell-Mann

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Murray Gell-Mann at Harvard University
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Murray Gell-Mann at Harvard University

Murray Gell-Mann (born September 15, 1929) is an American physicist who received the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles.

He introduced the "eightfold way" as a means to coherently organize the great numbers of particles that had been found by experimentalists in prior years. The eightfold way establishes a clear link between quark arrangements and abstract algebra. The algebra that Gell-Mann used to express the relationship is called the SU(3).

Gell-Mann was also instrumental in the development of the idea of quarks; the conservation of strangeness (a quantity that quarks intrisically possess based on their type) under interaction with the Strong nuclear force, and the fact that they possess charges of ±1/3 or ±2/3. The interactions of quarks and gluons with the strong nuclear force is governed by a theory called Quantum Chromodynamics.

Gell-Mann wrote a popular science book, The Quark and the Jaguar, Adventures in the Simple and the Complex. George Johnson wrote the major popular biography of Gell-Mann, which is entitled Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in 20th-Century Physics.

He earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Yale University in 1948, and a PhD in physics from MIT in 1951. He was a professor at the University of Chicago before moving to the California Institute of Technology, where he taught from 1955 until 1993. He is currently the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus at Caltech as well as a University Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1984 Gell-Mann founded the Santa Fe Institute—a non-profit research institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico—to study complex systems and disseminate the notion of a separate interdisciplinary study of complexity theory.

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