The American physicist Steven Weinberg, who shared the Nobel Prize (1979) for Physics for his theoretical contributions unlocking the mysteries of some tiny particles and their interaction (electromagnetic), to the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics, died on 23 July, aged 88 at the University of Texas (Austin) said Saturday.

By Muhammad Shahid

He was one of the key intellectual leaders in physics during the second half of the 20th century, and he remained a leading voice and active contributor and teacher through the first two decades of the 21st century.

Steven Weinberg was born in New York on 3rd May 1933, Weinberg attended the Bronx High School of Science, which has seen seven former pupils go on to win physics Nobel’s. He received a degree in physics from Cornell University in 1954, and after a year at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen (now the Niels Bohr Institute), he returned to the US to complete his Ph.D. at Cornell University, graduating in 1957. After a stint at Columbia University, in 1959 Weinberg went to the University of California, Berkeley, before heading to Harvard University in 1966. A year later, Weinberg became a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he carried out much of his pioneering work in unifying the weak and electromagnetic interaction. In 1973 Weinberg went back to Harvard where he also held a position at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. In 1982 he moved to the University of Texas at Austin, where he spent the remainder of his career.

Among his peers, Weinberg was one of the most respected figures in all of physics or perhaps all of science. He exuded intelligence and dignity. As news of his death spread through Twitter, other physicists expressed their remorse at the loss: “One of the most accomplished scientists of our age,” one commented, “a particularly eloquent spokesman for the scientific worldview.” And another: “One of the best physicists we had, one of the best thinkers of any variety.”

He is one of the founding fathers of the SM of particle physics and is commonly regarded as being among the most influential living theoreticians. In the 1960s Weinberg’s work was instrumental in understanding the weak interaction in particle physics, which is best known for its role in nuclear decay. He shared the 1979 Nobel Prize equally with Sheldon Glashow (American physicist) and Abdus Salam (Pakistani physicist). Their contributed work improved the understanding of how everything in the universe relates, according to a UT statement. This work helped the physicists to unify two forces of nature, subatomic forces known as nuclear forces, said Sean Carroll (American physicist) at the California Institute of Technology.

Early on Weinberg also realized a desire to communicate more broadly. Weinberg did important technical work in other realms of physics as well and wrote several authoritative textbooks on such topics as general relativity and cosmology and quantum field theory. His popular book “The First Three Minutes” (which told the story of the origin or birth of the universe and the fundamental science underlying that metaphor), published in 1977. He wrote many other books, including “Dreams of a Final Theory” (which explains his belief that physics was on the verge of discovering a theory that would unite physics), published in 1993. One of his last books on the history of science, “To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science” (which examined the history of physics from the ancient Greeks to the present day), was published in 2015. Later he wrote deeply insightful examinations of the nature of science and its intersection with society.

Weinberg was the recipient of numerous prizes including the National Medal of Science in 1991 and the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Science in 2004. Last year, he received a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental physics – and with it $3m – for his contributions to physics.

As he told the Nobel Institute in a 2001 interview, he first became interested in science when a cousin of his who had been given a chemistry set passed it along to him. The cousin had decided to take up boxing instead. “Perhaps he should have stayed in science,” Dr. Weinberg said. He was right that he would not be around to see the final theory. And perhaps, as he sometimes acknowledged, nobody ever will. Perhaps it’s not experimental power that is lacking, but rather intellectual power. “Humans may not be smart enough to understand the fundamental laws of physics,” he wrote in his 2015 book To Explain the World, a history of science up to the time of Newton. Future science historians will perhaps insist on assessing Weinberg’s own work in light of the standards of his times. But even if viewed in light of future knowledge, there’s no doubt that Weinberg’s achievements will remain in the realm of the Herculean. Or the titanic.

He was an early advocate of superstring theory as a promising path in the continuing quest to complete the standard model by unifying it with general relativity, Einstein’s theory of gravity. Many Physicists have voiced their admiration for Weinberg’s work and life. Jay Hartzell (American economist & president of the University of Texas at Austin), said in a statement that, For millions of individuals, Weinberg unveiled the mysteries of the universe, enriching humanity’s concept of nature and our relationship to the world”. Weinberg leaves behind a wife and a daughter. There were no funeral services announced yet.

Author: The writer Muhammad Shahid is research scholar at department of Physics at COMSATS University Islamabad. He can be reached at

By Muhammad Shahid

The writer Muhammad Shahid is research scholar at department of Physics at COMSATS University Islamabad. He can be reached at