Born the youngest son of Belorussian immigrants in New York on December 5, 1932. It was already at the Bronx High School of Science that he met Steven Weinberg. After he had attended Cornell University, he could start studying at Harvard University in 1954. Instructed by Julian Schwinger, he was engaged with the problems of particle physics already there, and he developed his first ideas about the combination of “weak” and electromagnetic short-range forces. As a postdoctoral fellow Glashow came to the Niels-Bohr Institute in Copenhagen in 1958 and also to CERN in Geneva. Two years later the basis of his “Theory of Electroweak Interaction” was already finished. Here, in Europe, he met Murray Gell-Mann, from whom he gained important knowledge of the mathematics of “weak” natural forces.
After he had worked at the California Institute of Technology for two years, he became an assistant professor at Stanford University. In 1962 he changed to Berkeley and temporarily worked as a guest with CERN and in Marseilles. In 1966 he returned to Harvard as Eugene-Higgins professor. Meanwhile he had developed the Quark model, complemented by the “charm” quark, and based on his findings about the structure of the four different forces (and their uniform interpretation). Thus he made a basic contribution to the extensive description of elementary natural forces – independently from Steven Weinberg (USA) and Abdus Salam (Pakistan). In 1979 all three scientists were awarded the Nobelprize in Physics.
By Volker Steger
Did he have some kind of electroweak interaction somewhere along
the way or did he just meet a charmed quark? Anyway, I have to
wait a little while for Sheldon Glashow, who is very much in demand
on this day at CERN. After making his sketch, he asks for a chair for
the photo session. Just any kind of stool – a standard model.
Hat er irgendwo unterwegs eine Art elektroschwache
Wechselwirkung oder ein Charme-Quark getroff en? Egal, ich
jedenfalls muss auf Sheldon Glashow warten, der an diesem Tag
beim CERN sehr gefragt ist. Nachdem er seine Zeichnung angefertigt
hat, bittet er um einen Stuhl für das Fotoshooting.
Irgendeine Art von Stuhl – ein Standardmodell.
No Simple Explanation
by Adam Smith
“Clearly I could not think of anything pictorial,” recalls Sheldon Glashow. “Nor, I imagine, could James Clerk Maxwell have thought of some interesting, curious picture to write down when he wrote down his Maxwell equations, or Einstein when he wrote down the general theory of relativity, say.” Glashow, Abdus Salam and Steven Weinberg received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 for their contibutions to the understanding of the weak interaction. The weak interaction, or force, is one of the four fundamental forces of nature and is responsible for the radioactive decay of subatomic particles. Glashow in particular developed an algebraic formulation of an electroweak model that combines the weak interactions with electromagnetism, another of the fundamental forces. Referring to his sketch, Glashow remarks that “actually these formulas have a significance to me of having to do with quite a lot of work even well beyond what I shared the Nobel Prize for.”
He goes on to talk about the problems of communicating science to a general audience; “It’s very hard to talk about quantum mechanics or relativity when there’s no background of anything having to with the nature of research or the understanding of the laws of physics. Where do you start? What I’ve written down is commutation relations. The commutator of Q+ with Q- is Q3. You may or may not want to explain what a commutator is. It’s [Q+, Q-] – [Q-, Q+] for example. And then in the other ones, [Q4, Q+] – [Q+, Q4] is equal to zero, etc. Okay, so it’s a bunch of commutators, algebraic things, and then with an exclamation point, the electric charge, which is QEM is Q3 + Q4. Obviously somebody is excited about that.”
Thinking about other pictures that he sometimes uses to engage public audiences, Glashow suggests that “Another picture that I’ve used on many occasions is Ouroboros, the snake that swallows its own tail, because that has a great deal to do with the synthesis between the large and the small. The fact that particle physics is not just the study of the smallest things in the world but it’s also a key to understanding the structure of the universe as a whole, and there’s been an enormously successful and productive convergence between cosmology on the one hand and particle physics on the other. Something that actually started a long, long time ago.”