Martin Lewis Perl was born on June
24, 1927, in Manhattan, New
York. He enrolled in the Polytechnic Institute of
Brooklyn, now Polytechnic University, and began studying
chemical engineering. His college career was interrupted
by the start of World
War II. Perl joined the United States Merchant Marine.
After the war, he returned to the Polytechnic Institute
and received a bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering
in 1948. Following graduation, he joined the General
Electric Company, working as a Chemical Engineer in
the Electron Tube Division.
In 1950, he entered the physics doctoral
program at Columbia University. After he obtained his
Ph.D. in 1955, he had job offers from the Physics Departments
at Yale, the University of Illinois, and the University
of Michigan. In the end, Perl accepted Michigan’s
offer. Perl has been on the faculty at Stanford Linear
Accelerator Center SLAC since 1963.
In 1995, Perl won the Nobel
Prize in Physics, along with Fredrick
Reines, for his discovery of the tauon. He is a
member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow
of the American Physical Society (APS).
The following press release from the
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences describes Perl's work:
Mankind seeks his place
in nature. He endeavours to find answers
to philosophical and physical questions
alike. The home of mankind, the Universe,
was created in a Big Bang. “What
does this Universe consist of?” - "What
are the smallest constituents of the Universe
and what are their properties?"
- "What can they tell us of the history
of the Universe and of its future?" etc.
This year's laureates have in this search
made lasting contributions: They have discovered
two of nature's most remarkable subatomic
Martin L. Perl and his colleagues discovered,
through a series of experiments between 1974 and 1977,
at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in
the USA, that the electron has a relative some 3 500
times heavier, which is called the taut
Martin Perl's discovery
of the tau was the first sign that a third "family" of
fundamental building blocks existed. Some
years later a further building block was
discovered - one of the family's two quarks,
the bottom quark. Not until 18 years later
was its other quark, the top quark, discovered.
The existence of the third family is very
important for physicists' confidence in
the present theoretical model for understanding
the properties of nature's smallest constituents.
This is called the standard model. Without
a third family, the model would have been
incomplete and unable to admit what is
termed the Charge and Parity (CP) violation,
a violation of a fundamental principle
of symmetry which, among other things,
regulates particle decay (Nobel Prize to
Cronin and Fitch 1980). If a fourth family
of quarks and leptons is discovered, this
may mean that the standard model must be
revised and more extensive reconstruction
within elementary-particle physics commenced.