US physicist, who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow for his unification of the weak and the electromagnetic forces.
The son of a New York court stenographer, Weinberg was educated at the Bronx High School of Science, where Sheldon Glashow was a classmate. He later attended Cornell and Princeton universities, gaining his PhD at Princeton in 1957. After holding appointments at Columbia (1957–59), Berkeley (1959–69), and MIT (1969–73), Weinberg moved to Harvard, where he was Higgins Professor of Physics (1973–83); since 1982 he has been Josey Regental Professor of Science at the University of Texas.
In 1967 Weinberg showed how two of the four basic forces operating on elementary particles, the weak and the electromagnetic, could be united to yield a single force, an achievement comparable to the unification of electrical and magnetic forces by James Clerk Maxwell. One consequence of the theory is a hitherto unobserved neutral current between elementary particles, which was first detected in 1973. A similar unification was independently proposed by Abdus Salam in 1968 and later extended by Glashow. Since his initial success Weinberg has been seeking a unified field theory covering all four forces of nature, but so far has not achieved an acceptable hypothesis.
Weinberg is also well known for his work in astrophysics and cosmology. He is the author of a standard monograph on the subject, Gravitation and Cosmology (1972), as well as a successful popular work, The First Three Minutes (1978); other publications include Elementary Particles and the Law of Physics (with R. P. Feynman; 1988) and Dreams of a Final Theory (1993).
Subjects: Science and Mathematics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).