Melvin Schwartz

Melvin Schwartz

Schwartz, Melvin, 1932-2006 American physicist, b. New York City, Ph.D. Columbia, 1959. He was a professor at Columbia (1959-66) and Stanford (1966-79). Schwartz established and ran his own software development business, Digital Pathways, between 1979 and 1991, when he joined Brookhaven National Laboratory as a researcher. He retired in 1997. Schwartz was awarded the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics with Leon Lederman and Jack Steinberger for their development of the neutrino beam method in the 1960s and their use of the method to make discoveries about elementary particle physics. The researchers used the high-energy neutrinos to study the weak interaction, or force—one of the four fundamental forces of nature and the most difficult to observe—and in doing so confirmed the existence of two types of neutrinos, the electron neutrino and the previously unknown muon neutrino. This led to the development of a new scheme for classifying families of subatomic particles.

Melvin Schwartz (November 2, 1932August 28, 2006) was an American physicist. He shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics with Leon M. Lederman and Jack Steinberger for their development of the neutrino beam method and their demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino.

He grew up in New York City in the Great Depression and went to the Bronx High School of Science. His interest in physics began there at the age of 12.

He earned his B.A. (1953) and Ph.D. (1958) at Columbia University, where Nobel laureate I. I. Rabi was the head of the physics department. Schwartz became an assistant professor at Columbia in 1958. He was promoted to associate professor in 1960 and full professor in 1963. Tsung-Dao Lee, a Columbia colleague who had recently won the Nobel prize at age 30, inspired the experiment for which Schwartz received his Nobel. Schwartz and his colleagues performed the experiments which led to their Nobel Prize in the early 1960s, when all three were on the Columbia faculty. The experiment was carried out at the nearby Brookhaven National Laboratory.

In 1966, after 17 years at Columbia, he moved west to Stanford University, where SLAC, a new accelerator, was just being completed. There, he was involved in research investigating the charge asymmetry in the decay of long-lived neutral kaons and another project which produced and detected relativistic hydrogen-like atoms made up of a pion and a muon.

In the 1970s he founded and became president of Digital Pathways. In 1991, he became Associate Director of High Energy and Nuclear Physics at Brookhaven National Laboratory. At the same time, he rejoined the Columbia faculty as Professor of Physics. He became I. I. Rabi Professor of Physics in 1994 and retired as Rabi Professor Emeritus in 2000. He spent his retirement years in Ketchum, Idaho, and died August 28, 2006 at a Twin Falls, Idaho, nursing home after struggling with Parkinson's disease and hepatitis C.

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