Murray Gell-Mann

Murray Gell-Mann, portrait by Bernice Durand

Murray Gell-Mann, a brilliant physicist known for his ability to uncover hidden patterns among subatomic particles, passed away at the age of 89. Gell-Mann’s groundbreaking work in theoretical particle physics during the 1950s and 60s played a pivotal role in understanding the universe’s fundamental building blocks. He devised a classification system for subatomic particles, which, in a moment of whimsy, he named the “Eightfold Way” after the Buddha’s path to enlightenment, despite having no mystical inclinations himself. Gell-Mann’s contributions extended to the identification of quarks, inspired by a line from James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake,” leading to the development of quantum chromodynamics. His intellect and brusque demeanor left an indelible mark on the field of physics, earning him recognition as one of the great scientists of the 20th century. Gell-Mann was an imperative force in the early years of ACP and held many positions: Chair of the Board from 1973 – 1979, Vice President from 1968-1972, Trustee from 1968-1980, Honorary Trustee from 1981 – 2019, and General Member from 1990 – 2005. He will be dearly missed. 

Murray Gell-Mann’s complete memorial obituary can be found in the New York Times here.

Watch an oral history with Murray Gell-Mann here.

Mentions of Gell-Mann’s involvement with the Center can also be found in Randy Durand’s essay, “Particle Physics at the Aspen Center for Physics: The Early Years,” and in Jeremy Bernstein’s essay “The First 35 Years.”

Murray Gell-Mann, portrait by Bernice Durand

Positions Held

Trustee, 1968 – 1980
Vice President, 1968 – 1972
Chair of the Board, 1973 – 1979
General Member, 1990 – 2005
Honorary Member, 1990 – 2005
Honorary Trustee, 1981-2019