Steven Weinberg

Steven Weinberg

Infobox Scientist
box_width = 300px
name = Steven Weinberg

imagesize = 200px
caption = Steven Weinberg
birth_date = birth date and age|1933|5|3
birth_place = New York City, New York, USA
residence = United States
nationality = United States
ethnicity = Ashkenazi Jewish
fields = Physics
workplaces = MIT
Harvard University
University of Texas at Austin
alma_mater = Cornell University
Princeton University
doctoral_advisor = Sam Treiman
doctoral_students = Mark G. Raizen
John Preskill
known_for = nowrap|Electromagnetism and Weak Force unification
Weinberg-Witten theorem
influenced = Alan Guth
awards = nowrap|Nobel Prize in Physics (1979)
religion = Atheist
footnotes = He is married to the professor of law, Louise Weinberg.

Steven Weinberg (born May 3, 1933) is an American physicist, and Nobel laureate in Physics for his contributions with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow to the unification of the weak force and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles.


Steven Weinberg was born in 1933 in New York City, the son of Jewish parents Frederick and Eva Weinberg. He graduated from Bronx High School of Science in 1950 and received his bachelor's degree from Cornell University in 1954, living at the Cornell branch of the Telluride Association. He left Cornell and went to the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen where he started his graduate studies and research. After one year, Weinberg returned to Princeton University where he earned his Ph.D. degree in Physics in 1957, studying under Sam Treiman.

Academic career

After completing his Ph.D., Weinberg worked as a professor at Columbia University (1957-1959) and University of California, Berkeley (1959-1966) and did research in a variety of topics of particle physics, such as the high energy behavior of quantum field theory, symmetry breaking, pion scattering, infrared photons and quantum gravity [A partial list of this work is: Weinberg, S. "Phys. Rev." 118 838-849 (1960); Weinberg, S. "Phys. Rev." 127 965-970 (1962); Weinberg, S. "Phys. Rev. Lett." 17 616-621 (1966); Weinberg, S. "Phys. Rev." 140 B516-B524 (1965).] . It was also during this time that he developed the approach to quantum field theory that is described in the first chapters of his book "The Quantum Theory of Fields" [Weinberg, S. "Phys. Rev." 133, B1318-B1332 (1964); Weinberg, S. "Phys. Rev." 134 B882-B896 (1964); Weinberg, S. "Phys. Rev." 181 1893-1899 (1969) ] and started to write his textbook "Gravitation and Cosmology". Both textbooks, perhaps especially the second, are among the most influential texts in the scientific community in their subjects.

In 1966, Weinberg left Berkeley and accepted a lecturer position at Harvard. In 1967 he was visiting professor at MIT. It was in that year at MIT that Weinberg proposed his model of unification of electromagnetism and of nuclear weak forces (such as those involved in beta-decay and kaon-decay) [Weinberg, S. "Phys. Rev.Lett." 19 1264-1266 (1967).] . This model is now known as the electroweak unification theory. An important feature of this model is the prediction of the existence of another interaction mechanism between leptons, known as neutral current and mediated by the Z boson. The experimental discovery of this Z boson was one verification of the electroweak unification.The paper by Weinberg in which he presented this theory is one of the highest cited theoretical work ever in high energy physics as of 2006 [A list of the top cited papers in high energy physics can be found at] .

After his 1967 seminal work on the unification of weak and electromagnetic interactions, Steven Weinberg continued his work in many aspects of particle physics, quantum field theory, gravity, supersymmetry, superstrings and cosmology.

In the years after 1967, the full Standard Model of elementary particle theory was developed through the work of many contributors. In it, the weak and electromagnetic interactions already unified by the work of Weinberg, Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow, are further unified with the strong interactions, in one overarching theory. One of its fundamental aspects was the prediction of the existence of the Higgs boson. In 1973 Weinberg proposed a modification of the Standard Model which did not contain that model's fundamental Higgs boson.

Weinberg became Higgins Professor of Physics at Harvard University in 1973.

It is of special importance that in 1979 he pioneered the modern view on the renormalization aspect of quantum field theory that considers all quantum field theories as effective field theories and changed completely the viewpoint of previous work (including his own) that a sensible quantum field theory must be renormalizable [Weinberg, S. "Physica" 96A, 327 (1979)] . This approach allowed the development of effective theory of quantum gravity [Donoghue, J. F. "Phys. Rev." D 50, 3874 (1994)] , low energy QCD, heavy quark effective field theory and other developments, and it is a topic of considerable interest in current research.

In 1979, after the experimental discovery of the neutral currents -- i.e. the discovery of the inferred existence of the Z boson --, the particle which had been a basic prediction of his 1973 theory, in 1979 Steven Weinberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for developing this theory, together with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow, who independently had also proposed that theory.

In 1982 Weinberg moved to the University of Texas at Austin as the Jack S. Josey-Welch Foundation Regents Chair in Science and founded the "Theory Group" of the Physics Department.

There is current (2008) interest in Weinberg's 1976 proposal of the existence of new strong interactions [Weinberg, S. "Phys. Rev."D13 974–996 (1976).] -- a proposal dubbed "Technicolor" by Leonard Susskind -- because of its chance of being observed in the LHC as an explanation of the hierarchy problem.

Steven Weinberg's influence and importance is confirmed by the fact that he is frequently among the top scientists with highest research impact indices, such as the h-index and the creativity index. [ In 2006 Weinberg had the second highest creativity index among physicists] [ [ Publications] on ArXiv] [ [ Short biography (w/ photo)] ] [ [ His articles in the "New York Review of Books"] ] [His [ Autobiography] serves as a general reference to this article.] [ [ The Atheism Tapes, program 2] - the transcript of an extended interview with Steven Weinberg for the Jonathan Miller BBC TV series "The Atheism Tapes".] [ [ Interview for Texas Monthly Talks.] ] [ [ Secular Philosophy] ]

Other intellectual legacy

Besides his scientific research, Steven Weinberg has been a prominent public spokesman for science, testifying before Congress in support of the Superconducting Super Collider, writing articles for the "New York Review of Books", and giving various lectures on the larger meaning of science. His books on science written for the public combine the typical scientific popularization with what is traditionally considered history and philosophy of science and atheism.

Weinberg was a major participant in what is known as the Science Wars, standing with Paul R. Gross, Norman Levitt, Alan Sokal, Lewis Wolpert, and Richard Dawkins, on the side arguing for the hard realism of science and scientific knowledge and against the constructionism proposed by such social scientists as Stanley Aronowitz, Barry Barnes, David Bloor, David Edge, Harry Collins, Steve Fuller, and Bruno Latour.

Weinberg is also known for his support of Israel. While this is not extraordinary in itself, he, like many American Jews, supports Israel from a liberal point of view. He wrote an essay titled "Zionism and Its Cultural Adversaries" to explain his views on the issue.

Weinberg has canceled trips to universities in the United Kingdom because of British boycotts directed towards Israel. He has explained:

:"Given the history of the attacks on Israel and the oppressiveness and aggressiveness of other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, boycotting Israel indicated a moral blindness for which it is hard to find any explanation other than antisemitism. [cite news | url=,7340,L-3404128,00.html | title=Nobel laureate cancels London trip due to anti-Semitism | accessdate=2007-06-01 |date=24 May 2007 | work=YNet News Jewish Daily]

His views on religion were expressed in a speech from 1999 in Washington, D.C.::"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." [ cite web
title= A Designer Universe?
author=Steven Weinberg
quote= A version of the original quote from address at the Conference on Cosmic Design, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C. in April 1999

He attended and was a speaker at the symposium on November 2006.

During a conversation with Richard Dawkins in 2008, Steven Weinberg commented that religion is a "mile wide and an inch deep" and if he cared about religion it would make him cry, to which Dawkins responded with a chuckle, "It does not make me cry. It makes me laugh!"


He is married to Louise Weinberg and has one daughter, Elizabeth.

Honours and awards

The honors and awards that Prof Weinberg received include

* Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from dozen institutions: University of Chicago, Knox College, City University of New York, University of Rochester, Yale University, City University of New York, Dartmouth College, Weizmann Institute, Clark University, Washington College, Columbia University, Bates College.
* American Academy of Arts and Sciences, elected 1968
* National Academy of Sciences, elected 1972
* J. R. Oppenheimer Prize, 1973
* Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics, 1977
* Steel Foundation Science Writing Award, 1977, for authorship of The First Three Minutes (1977)
* Elliott Cresson Medal (Franklin Institute), 1979
* Nobel Prize in Physics, 1979
* Elected to American Philosophical Society, Royal Society of London (Foreign Honorary Member), Philosophical Society of Texas
* James Madison Medal of Princeton University, 1991
* National Medal of Science, 1991
* Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, 1999.

Popular articles

[ A Designer Universe?] , critically discussing the possibility of the intelligent design of the universe, is based on a talk given in April 1999 at the Conference on Cosmic Design of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.


* "Gravitation and Cosmology: Principles and Applications of the General Theory of Relativity" (1972)
* "The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe" (1977, updated with new afterword in 1993, ISBN 0-465-02437-8)
* "The Discovery of Subatomic Particles" (1983)
* "Elementary Particles and the Laws of Physics: The 1986 Dirac Memorial Lectures" (1987; with Richard Feynman)
* "Dreams of a Final Theory: The Search for the Fundamental Laws of Nature " (1993), ISBN 0-09-922391-0
* "The Quantum Theory of Fields" (three volumes: 1995, 1996, 2003)
* "Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries" (2001, 2003, HUP)
* "Glory and Terror: The Coming Nuclear Danger" (2004, NYRB)
*"Cosmology" (2008, OUP)

*Weinberg, S. & G. Feinberg. [ "Law of Conservation of Muons"] , Columbia University, University of California-Berkeley, United States Department of Energy (through predecessor agency the Atomic Energy Commission), (Feb. 1961).
*Pais, A., Weinberg, S., Quigg, C., Riordan, M., Panofsky, W.K.H. & V. Trimble. [ "100 years of elementary particles"] , Stanford Linear Accelerator Center United States Department of Energy, "Beam Line", vol. 27, issue 1, Spring 1997. (April 1, 1997).

References and notes

External links

* [ Biography and Bibliographic Resources] , from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, United States Department of Energy
* [ Home Page of Steven Weinberg at University of Texas at Austin]
* [ In CERN Courier, Steven Weinberg reflects on spontaneous symmetry breaking]
* [ Steven Weinberg praises teams for Higgs Theory]
* [ Oral history interview transcript with Steven Weinberg 28 June 1991, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library & Archives]
* [ Weinberg author page and archive] from "The New York Review of Books"

NAME= Weinberg, Steven
DATE OF BIRTH= 3 May 1933

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