Biography:Hugh David Politzer

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Short description: American theoretical physicist
Hugh David Politzer
Born (1949-08-31) August 31, 1949 (age 74)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Harvard University
Known forAsymptotic freedom
Prediction of charmonium
Quantum chromodynamics
AwardsNobel Prize in Physics (2004)
Sakurai Prize (1986)
Scientific career
InstitutionsCalifornia Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisorSidney Coleman
Doctoral studentsStephen Wolfram

Hugh David Politzer (/ˈpɑːlɪtsər/; born August 31, 1949) is an American theoretical physicist and the Richard Chace Tolman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology.[1][2] He shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics with David Gross and Frank Wilczek for their discovery of asymptotic freedom in quantum chromodynamics.[3]

Life and career

Politzer was born in New York City . His parents, Alan (hungarian:Aladár) and Valerie Politzer, escaped to England from Czechoslovakia in 1939 and immigrated to the U.S. after World War II. He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1966, received his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Michigan in 1969, and his PhD in 1974 from Harvard University, where his graduate advisor was Sidney Coleman.

In his first published article, which appeared in 1973, Politzer described the phenomenon of asymptotic freedom: the closer quarks are to each other, the weaker the strong interaction will be between them.[4] When quarks are in extreme proximity, the nuclear force between them is so weak that they behave almost like free particles. This result—independently discovered at around the same time by Gross and Wilczek at Princeton University—was extremely important in the development of quantum chromodynamics. With Thomas Appelquist, Politzer also played a central role in predicting the existence of "charmonium", a subatomic particle formed of a charm quark and a charm antiquark.

Politzer was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows from 1974 to 1977 before moving to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he is currently professor of theoretical physics. In 1986, he was awarded the J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics by the American Physical Society.[5] In 1989, he appeared in a minor role in the movie Fat Man and Little Boy, as Manhattan Project physicist Robert Serber.[6] The Nobel Prize in Physics 2004 was awarded jointly to David J. Gross, H. David Politzer and Frank Wilczek "for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction."

Politzer is one of the 20 American recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics to sign a letter addressed to President George W. Bush in May 2008, urging him to "reverse the damage done to basic science research in the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill" by requesting additional emergency funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.[7]

Politzer was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011.[8]

Politzer plays the banjo and has done research on the physics of the instrument.[9][10]


Politzer was the lead vocalist in the 1980s for Professor Politzer and the Rho Mesons, which put out their single, "The Simple Harmonic Oscillator".[11][12]

Politzer's Erdős-Bacon number is 5 – via appearing in Fat Man and Little Boy[13] with Laura Dern (in Novocaine with Kevin Bacon) and publishing once with Sidney Coleman (Erdős number 2).

See also

  • List of Jewish Nobel laureates


External links