Murray Gell-Mann

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Gell-Mann, Murray

(gĕl`-män), 1929–2019, American theoretical physicist, b. New York City, grad. Yale 1948, Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1951. He was associated with the Univ. of Chicago from 1952, moving in 1955 to the Calfornia Institute of Technology (emeritus from 1993). In 1953, he and the Japanese team of T. Nakano and Kazuhiko Nishijima independently proposed the concept of "strangeness" to account for certain particle-decay patterns; strangeness became the foundation for later symmetry studies. In 1961, Gell-Mann and Israeli physicist Yuval Ne'eman independently introduced the "eightfold way," or SU(3) symmetry, a tablelike ordering of all subatomic particles analogous to the ordering of the elements in the periodic tableperiodic table,
chart of the elements arranged according to the periodic law discovered by Dmitri I. Mendeleev and revised by Henry G. J. Moseley. In the periodic table the elements are arranged in columns and rows according to increasing atomic number (see the table entitled
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. The 1964 discovery of the omega-minus particle, which filled a gap in this ordering, brought the theory wide acceptance and led to Gell-Mann's being awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize for Physics. In 1963, Gell-Mann and American physicist George Zweig independently postulated the existence of the quark, an even more fundamental elementary particleelementary particles,
the most basic physical constituents of the universe. Basic Constituents of Matter

Molecules are built up from the atom, which is the basic unit of any chemical element. The atom in turn is made from the proton, neutron, and electron.
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 with a fractional electric charge; quarks are confined in protons, neutrons, and other particles by forces associated with the exchange of gluonsgluon,
an elementary particle that mediates, or carries, the strong, or nuclear, force. In quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the quantum field theory of strong interactions, the interaction of quarks (to form protons, neutrons, and other elementary particles) is described in terms
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. Gell-Mann and others later constructed the quantum field theoryquantum field theory,
study of the quantum mechanical interaction of elementary particles and fields. Quantum field theory applied to the understanding of electromagnetism is called quantum electrodynamics (QED), and it has proved spectacularly successful in describing the
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 of quarks and gluons called quantum chromodynamicsquantum chromodynamics
(QCD), quantum field theory that describes the properties of the strong interactions between quarks and between protons and neutrons in the framework of quantum theory.
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 (QCD). Gell-Mann's interests extended to the study of complexitycomplexity,
in science, field of study devoted to the process of self-organization. The basic concept of complexity is that all things tend to organize themselves into patterns, e.g.
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, and he was the director of physics and a distinguished fellow at the Santa Fe Institute, which he cofounded in 1984. He wrote The Eightfold Way in collaboration with Ne'eman (1964), Broken Scale Invariance and the Light Cone with Kenneth G. Wilson (1971), and The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and Complex (1994).


See biography by G. Johnson (1999).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gell-Mann, Murray


Born Sept. 15, 1929., in New York. American theoretical physicist.

Gell-Mann graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1951, becoming a professor at the Enrico Fermi Institute for Nuclear Studies in Chicago in 1953. In 1955 he joined the staff of the California Institute of Technology. His major works are in quantum field theory, the physics of elementary particles, and nuclear physics. Gell-Mann wrote the basic works on the classification of elementary particles. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1969.


“Elementarnye chastitsy.” Uspekhifizicheskikh nauk, 1958, vol. 62, issue 2. (With E. Rosenbaum.)
“Sil’no vzaimodeistvuiushchie chastitsy.” Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk, 1964, vol. 83, issue 4. (With A. Rosenfeld.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Gell-Mann, Murray

(1929–  ) physicist; born in New York City. While at the University of Chicago (1952–55), he formulated new physical laws to explain apparently anomalous behavior for newly created subatomic particles. At the California Institute of Technology (1955), he organized these "strange" particles into eight-member "families" consisting of fractionally charged particles, which he named "quarks" (after a word in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake). He received the 1969 Nobel Prize for these revolutionary contributions to particle physics. He continued his studies of quantum mechanics, dispersion theory, and theories of strong and weak particle interactions.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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