Steven Weinberg, PhD

Nobel Conference 50
Oct. 7 & 8, 2014

Theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg, PhD – 1979 Nobel laureate in physics; Jack S. Josey-Welch Foundation Regents Chair in Science and professor, Departments of Physics and Astronomy, University of Texas at Austin

Steven Weinberg has worked on some of the most fundamental problems in quantum and particle physics. For nearly 50 years he has been at the forefront of the quest to understand the nature of the basic particles that make up our universe, as well as the forces that hold them together.

Weinberg started his academic career at UC-Berkeley, where he worked on quantum field theory and quantum gravity, among other areas. In 1967, while visiting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he proposed a model that unified the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces. The prediction of the existence of the Higgs boson was founded on this model, known as electroweak unification theory. It is now one of the key aspects of the Standard Model of particle physics. For his work, Weinberg was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics along with Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam, who had independently proposed unification models.

In 1982 Weinberg started the Theory Group in the Department of Physics at the University of Texas at Austin, where he continues to explore aspects of quantum field theory. His contributions have had broad-ranging impact, allowing for theories including quantum gravity and low energy quantum chromodynamics. He has also explained their significance in understanding the origin and evolution of our universe in his popular book, The First Three Minutes.

In 1991 Weinberg received the National Medal of Science. In 2004 he received the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society, with a citation that said he is “considered by many to be the preeminent theoretical physicist alive in the world today.” He has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Britain's Royal Society, as well as to the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Weinberg earned his bachelor's degree from Cornell University in 1954. He started his graduate work at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and then moved back to Princeton University where he earned his PhD in physics in 1957. He has taught and researched at UC-Berkeley, Harvard, and MIT and is a member of the Physics and Astronomy departments at University of Texas at Austin, where he serves as the Josey Regental Chair in Science.