Sheldon Lee Glashow is an American theoretical physicist who received a share of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics for his contribution to developing the electroweak theory, which explains the unity of electromagnetism and the weak force. Along with his high profile academic career as the Metcalf Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Boston University, he is also a member of the Board of Sponsors for the ‘Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.’ The son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, he was born in New York City and raised in a middle-class home. Both of his parents, who themselves had been unable to get a good education, were adamant that their children should receive university education. He was bright and scientifically inclined from a young age and attended the Bronx High School of Science where he became friends with future scientists Gary Feinberg and Steven Weinberg. There was no doubt in his mind that one day he would grow up to be a scientist. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University and a Ph.D. degree in physics from Harvard University, he ventured into an academic career and spent several years in the Harvard physics department in diverse posts. It was in the 1960s that he began his work on electroweak unification models, which ultimately won him the Nobel Prize.
Childhood & Early Life
Sheldon Lee Glashow was born on December 5, 1932, in New York City, New York, US, to Jewish immigrants from Russia, Bella (Rubin) and Lewis Gluchovsky. He had two elder brothers. His father, a plumber, was a very hard-working man who after years of struggle managed to give his family a comfortable middle-class life.
His parents did not have good education and were thus very particular that each of their children get good education. His elder brothers chose careers of dentistry and medicine, and Sheldon always wanted to be a scientist.
He attended the Bronx High School of Science where he became friends with Gary Feinberg and Steven Weinberg. He proceeded to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University in 1954 and a Ph.D. degree in physics from Harvard University in 1959 with the thesis ‘The Vector Meson in Elementary Particle Decays.’ His Ph.D. guide was Nobel-laureate physicist Julian Schwinger with whom he wrote a paper on weak-electromagnetic unification.
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Sheldon Lee Glashow did a post-doctorate fellowship at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen and partly, at CERN. He also planned to work at the Lebedev Institute in Moscow and was waiting for his visa but it never came. He considered this a blessing as he spent the years 1958-60 in discovering the SU(2) x U(1) structure of the electroweak theory.
He was an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley from 1962 to 1966. In 1964, he collaborated with James Bjorken to predict a fourth quark, the charm quark. At that time four leptons had been discovered but only three quarks proposed.
He joined the Harvard physics department as a professor in 1966. He was named Higgins Professor of Physics in 1979. He remained at Harvard for the rest of his career and he became emeritus in 2000.
Taking forward his work on quarks, in 1970 the GIM mechanism showed that the two quark pairs: (d.s), (u,c), would largely cancel out flavor changing neutral currents. The prediction of the charm quark also removed a technical disaster for any quantum field theory with unequal numbers of quarks and leptons. Working along with Howard Georgi, Glashow proposed the first grand unified theory in 1973.
He has also served as a visiting scientist at CERN, and professor at the University of Marseilles, MIT, Brookhaven Laboratory, Texas A&M, the University of Houston, and Boston University. He has been involved in research in several areas including the Big Bang Theory, electroweak symmetry breaking, dark matter and cosmology.
He is an international expert of electroweak interaction which is the unified description of two of the four known fundamental interactions of nature: electromagnetism and the weak interaction. His research on the electroweak theory contributed to the explanation of the unity of electromagnetism and the weak force.
In collaboration with Howard Georgi, Sheldon Glashow proposed the Georgi–Glashow model which is a particular grand unification theory (GUT). In this model the standard model gauge groups SU(3) × SU(2) × U(1) are combined into a single simple gauge group—SU(5).
Awards & Achievements
Glashow shared the 1977 J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize with Feza Gürsey.
Sheldon Lee Glashow, Abdus Salam and Steven Weinberg were awarded jointly the Nobel Prize in Physics 1979 "for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including, inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current."
Personal Life & Legacy
Sheldon Lee Glashow married Joan Shirley Alexander in 1972. They have four children.