Richard E. Taylor General Physics, Subatomic Particles, Optics, Biophysics, Theoretical Physics

Won the Nobel Prize for verifying the quark theory

The Story

When Taylor entered the University of Alberta in Edmonton, he registered in a special program emphasizing mathematics and physics. He became interested in experimental physics while working on his MSc there. Then he went to Stanford University in California to study towards a PhD, but after two years, he stopped working on it to join the High Energy Physics Laboratory and build a new linear accelerator. Eventually, he went back to Stanford to get his PhD.

By the early 1960s Taylor was designing the experimental areas of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, helping to build the equipment and taking part in electron scattering experiments. Between 1967 and 1973 he conducted a series of experiments together with Jerome Friedman and Henry Kendall of MIT, in which they used the powerful new accelerator to smash protons and neutrons to pieces. They discovered that these elementary particles, once believed to be indivisible, are made up of quarks, thus proving the existence of these theoretical and as yet undiscovered building blocks of nature. The Nobel committee described it as finding a “new rung in the ladder of creation” and awarded Taylor, Friedman and Kendal the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Sources: Science, October 1990; Science News, October 27, 1990; The Canadian Encyclopedia, Year 2000 ed.; Image: Stanford University press image.


The Person

November 2, 1929
Medicine Hat, Alberta
Physicist; Professor
Stanford University, Stanford, California
  • BSc, University of Alberta, Edmonton, 1950
  • MSc, U of A, Edmonton, 1952
  • PhD, Stanford University, 1962
  • Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame, 2008
  • Nobel Prize in Physics, 1990
  • W.K.H. Panofsky Prize, 1989
  • Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award, 1982
  • Fellow, Guggenheim Foundation, 1971 - 1972
  • Fellow, American Physical Society
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada
  • Fellow, Royal Society of London
Last Updated
April 8, 2015

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