Santa Fe Institute’s Main Building Renamed After New Mexico Scientist Murray Gell-Mann

Dr. Murray Gell-Mann

SFI News:

A ceremony this morning is being held to rename Santa Fe Institute’s main building after legendary New Mexico scientist Murray Gell-Mann.

For 30 years, no one has been a more significant presence at the Santa Fe Institute than Dr. Gell-Mann and this event will honor New Mexico’s most prominent scientific figure by naming its iconic main building after him.

The naming takes place during a special ceremony at which Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales will commemorate Dr. Gell-Mann’s lifelong contributions to science and to New Mexico. An etched stone placard near the entrance of the building will be unveiled. Dr. Gell-Mann, now 85, is expected to be in attendance.

Dr. Gell-Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1969 for his groundbreaking work in elementary particle physics – including his theoretical prediction of subatomic particles called “quarks” – insights that changed the field of physics and launched new subfields. He later helped found the Santa Fe Institute and pioneer the field of complexity science, among his numerous other achievements.

Last month, Dr. Gell-Mann’s 60-year-old theory of the quark was reaffirmed with the detection of subatomic particles called “pentaquarks” at the CERN particle accelerator in Switzerland.

For his collective contributions, Dr. Gell-Mann is considered to be one of the most accomplished and creative scientists of our time.

“Murray has achieved the near impossible, as both master of the regularities of the subatomic realm and as a rigorous polymath in the fields of complexity and linguistics,” says SFI President David Krakauer. “As if that were not enough, Murray helped found the Institute and provide the field of complexity science with the intellectual foundations necessary for significant future discoveries.”

“By naming this building in his honor,” Krakauer adds, “we ensure that his legacy of expansive rigorous synthesis inspires generations to come as he has inspired all of us – his colleagues and friends.”

About Murray Gell-Mann, Life Trustee and Distinguished Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute:

Murray Gell-Mann is one of today’s most prominent scientists. He is currently Distinguished Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute. He is also Robert Andrews Millikan professor emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, where he joined the faculty in 1955. In 1969, he received the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles. He is the author of The Quark and the Jaguar, published in 1994, in which his ideas on simplicity and complexity are presented to a general readership.

Among his contributions to physics was the “eightfold way” scheme that brought order out of the chaos created by the discovery of some 100 kinds of particles in collisions involving atomic nuclei. Professor Gell-Mann subsequently found that all of those particles, including the neutron and proton, are composed of fundamental building blocks with very unusual properties that he named “quarks.” That idea has since been fully confirmed by experiment. The quarks are permanently confined by forces coming from the exchange of “gluons.” He and others later constructed the quantum field theory of quarks and gluons, called “quantum chromodynamics,” which seems to account for all the nuclear particles and their strong interactions.

Professor Gell-Mann was a director of the J.D. and C.T. MacArthur Foundation from 1979-2002 and is a board member of the Wildlife Conservation Society. From 1974 to 1988, he was a citizen regent of the Smithsonian Institution. He belongs to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations; he is also a foreign member of the Royal Society of London. He was on the President’s Science Advisory Committee from 1969 to 1972 and the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology from 1994 to 2001.

In 1988, Professor Gell-Mann was listed on the United Nations environmental program’s Roll of Honor for Environmental Achievement (The Global 500). He also shared the 1989 Ettore Majorana “Science for Peace” prize. Earlier, he was given the Ernest O. Lawrence Memorial Award of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute, the Research Corporation Award, and the John J. Carty Medal of the National Academy of Sciences. He has received honorary degrees from many universities, including Yale, Columbia, the University of Chicago, Cambridge, and Oxford. In 1994, the University of Florida awarded him an honorary degree in environmental studies, and in 2005 Professor Gell-Mann was awarded the Albert Einstein Medal by the Albert Einstein Society.

Gell-Mann’s interests extend to historical linguistics, archaeology, natural history, the psychology of creative thinking, and other subjects connected with biological and cultural evolution and with learning. Much of his recent research at the Santa Fe Institute has focused on the theory of complex adaptive systems, which brings many of those topics together. Professor Gell-Mann is spearheading the Evolution of Human Languages program at the Santa Fe Institute.

Another focus of his work relates to simplicity, complexity, regularity, and randomness. He is also concerned with how knowledge and understanding are to be extracted from the welter of “information” that can now be transmitted and stored as a result of the digital revolution. Professor Gell-Mann lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He teaches from time to time at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

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