David Gross
  • 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics


American theoretical physicist and string theorist. Along with Frank Wilczek and David Politzer, he was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction."

Education and Work Experience

1966, Ph.D. in Physics, University of California, Berkeley
1986-Present, Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics at Princeton University
1997-2012, Director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) at the University of California, Santa Barbara
2012-Present, Chancellor's Chair Professor in Theoretical Physics of KITP

Honors and Awards

1988, Dirac Medal, International Center for Theoretical Physics
2004, Nobel Prize in Physics
2005, Recipient Golden Plate Award, Academy of Achievement

Major Academic Achievements

David Gross has been a central figure in particle physics and string theory. In 1973, his discovery, with his student Frank Wilczek, of asymptotic freedom—the primary feature of non-Abelian gauge theories—led Gross and Wilczek to the formulation of Quantum Chromodynamics, the theory of the strong nuclear force. Asymptotic freedom is a phenomenon where the nuclear force weakens at short distances, which explains why experiments at very high energy can be understood as if nuclear particles are made of non-interacting quarks. The flip side of asymptotic freedom is that the force between quarks grows stronger as one tries to separate them. This is the reason why the nucleus of an atom can never be broken into its quark constituents. QCD completed the Standard Model, which details the three basic forces of particle physics--the electromagnetic force, the weak force, and the strong force. Gross was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics, with Politzer and Wilczek, for this discovery. He has also made seminal contributions to the theory of Superstrings, a burgeoning enterprise that brings gravity into the quantum framework. With collaborators, he originated the "Heterotic String Theory," the prime candidate for a unified theory of all the forces of nature. He continues to do research in this field at the KITP, a world center of physics.