- 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
American theoretical physicist. Harold Brown Prof. of Theoretical Physics Emeritus. He received the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in fundamental physics for “opening new perspectives on quantum gravity and the unification of forces”.
Education and Work Experience
1958-1962, A.B. in Mathematics, Harvard College 1962-1966, Ph.D. in Physics, UC Berkeley
1972-2014, Research Associate, then Professor and Harold Brown Prof. of Theoretical Physics, Caltech
2015-Present, Harold Brown Prof. of Theoretical Physics Emeritus, Caltech
Honors and Awards
1978, John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship
1987, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship 1989, Dirac Medal
2014, Physics Frontier Prize and Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
Major Academic Achievements
Physics boasts two supremely successful theories: quantum theory describes the Universe at the very small scale, governed by the electromagnetic and nuclear forces; and general relativity at the very large scale, where the force of gravity reigns. But the two theories seem to be mutually contradictory. In 1974 John Schwarz and his collaborator Joel Scherk, who passed away in 1980, proposed that a third theory — string theory, which treats particles as the manifestations of vibrating strings at a far smaller scale— could reconcile gravity with quantum theory and unify it with the other forces. From 1980 through 1984 Schwarz worked with Michael Green to develop superstring theory, and in 1984 they showed that apparent inconsistencies between superstring theory and quantum theory are circumvented in certain special cases. This work kindled the “first superstring revolution”, which led to an explosion of interest in this novel approach to quantum gravity and the unification of the forces.