Renowned American physicist Murray Gell-Mann, one of the founders of particle physics, died on Friday, May 24 at the age of 89.
Santa Fe Institute confirmed his passing in a news release, reporting that Gell-Mann died peacefully. No cause has been disclosed as of printing.
The Father Of Quarks And The Eightfold Way
While the Nobel laureate has countless of contributions in the world of physics, one of his best known achievements is bringing order to the tumultuous world of particle physics.
In 1961, Gell-Mann proposed a way to sort subatomic particles into clusters of eight. The method, which he dubbed the "eightfold way" as a nod to the Buddhist eightfold path to enlightenment, is widely accepted as something that transformed the landscape of particle physics.
The eightfold way, along with related research, led to him being awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his contributions and discoveries concerning the classification of elementary particles and their interactions."
He's also famously known as the Father of Quarks, having proposed the existence of quarks at around the same time fellow scientist George Zweig arrived at the same conclusion. Quarks are the fundamental components of matter making up protons, neurons, and other subatomic particles. In typical offbeat fashion, Gell-Mann named the particle "quarks" as a reference to the quote "Three quarks for Muster Mark" in James Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake.
"Murray Gell-Mann was a seminal figure in the history of physics," said Caltech president Thomas Rosenbaum. "A polymath, a discerner of Nature's fundamental patterns, and, as such, an expositor for the connections of physics to other disciplines, Murray helped define the approaches of generations of scientists."
More About Gell-Mann
Gell-Mann was born to an Austrian immigrant family in New York City on Sept. 15, 1929.
Displaying intelligence and an insatiable interest in the natural world, he graduated as high school valedictorian at the age of 14. He went on to graduate with an undergraduate degree in physics from Yale University in 1948 and then obtained his PhD in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1951.
"If a child grows up to be a scientist, he finds that he is paid to play all day at the most exciting game ever devised by mankind," Gell-Mann previously said.
Gell-Mann is survived by his children Nicolas Gell-Mann and Elizabeth Gell-Mann, as well as his stepson Nicholas Southwick Levis.