(1936–) American physicist
Although born at Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ting was educated at primary and secondary schools in China; he subsequently moved to Taiwan and returned to America to study at the University of Michigan. At Michigan he gained his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in the six years 1956–62.
His interest in elementary-particle physics, which was to lead to his sharing the Nobel Prize for the discovery of a significant new particle, took him to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva (1963) and then Columbia University, New York (1964), where he became an associate professor in 1965. In 1966 Ting was given a group leader post at DESY, the German electron synchrotron project at Hamburg, and in 1967 joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; he was appointed professor of physics there in 1969.
Working at Long Island, New York, on the Brookhaven National Laboratory's alternating-gradient synchrotron, Ting and his collaborators performed experiments in which streams of protons were fired at a stationary beryllium target. In such an experiment a particle was observed that had a lifetime almost 1000 times greater than could be expected from its observed mass. Announcement was made in a 14-author paper in the Physical Review Letters in 1974. The discovery was made independently and almost simultaneously by Burton Richter and his colleagues some 2000 miles away at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Ting called the new particle J, Richter named it psi (ψ); it is now known as the J/psi in recognition of the simultaneity of its discovery. Confirmation came quickly from other high-energy physics laboratories and a whole family of similar particles has since been created and detected.
Ting and Richter were very quickly honored for their discovery by the award, jointly, of the 1976 Nobel Prize for physics. By 1976 Ting was directing three research groups, at Brookhaven, CERN, and DESY.
Subjects: Science and Mathematics.