Robert Marshak


Robert Eugene Marshak (October 11, 1916 – December 23, 1992) was an American physicist, educator, and eighth president of the City College of New York.

Robert Eugene Marshak
Robert E. Marshak Los Alamos ID.png
8th President of City College of New York
In office
Preceded byBuell G. Gallagher
Succeeded byBernard W. Harleston
President of the American Physical Society
In office
Preceded byMaurice Goldhaber
Succeeded byMildred Dresselhaus
Personal details
BornOctober 11, 1916
DiedDecember 23, 1992 (1992-12-24) (aged 76)
EducationColumbia University (BA)
Cornell University (PhD)


Marshak was born in the Bronx, New York City. His parents, Harry and Rose Marshak, were immigrants from Minsk. He went to the City College of New York for one semester and then "received a Pulitzer Scholarship which provided full tuition and a stipend which allowed him to continue his education at Columbia University."[1]

In 1939, Marshak received his Ph.D. from Cornell University. Along with his thesis advisor, Hans Bethe, he discovered many of the fusion aspects involved in star formation. This helped him on his work for the Manhattan Project, in Los Alamos, during World War II.[1] During this time, he developed an explanation of how shock waves work in extremely high temperatures achieved by a nuclear explosion, and these waves are known as Marshak waves.[2]

Following the war, Marshak joined the University of Rochester Department of Physics, becoming head of the department in 1950.[3]

In 1947, at the Shelter Island Conference, Marshak presented his two-meson hypothesis about the pi-meson, which were discovered shortly thereafter.[4] Three years later, Marshak established the Rochester Conference while chair of the University of Rochester's physics department. This later became known as the International Conference on High Energy Physics.[1]

In 1957, Marshak and George Sudarshan proposed a V-A ("vector" minus "axial vector") Lagrangian for weak interactions, which eventually paved the way for the electroweak theory. This theory was later presented by Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann, which later contributed to each winning a Nobel Prize in Physics. Sudarshan stated that Gell-Mann had learned the theory from him at the Rochester Conference.[5] Similarly, Richard Feynman learned about the theory from a discussion with Marshak in a conference. Feynman acknowledged Marshak and Sudarshan's contribution in 1963 stating that the V-A theory was discovered by Sudarshan and Marshak and publicized by Gell-Mann and himself.[6]

Marshak was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1958, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1961, and the American Philosophical Society in 1983.[7][8][9]

In 1970, Marshak left Rochester to become president of the City College of New York.[10] He left to become University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, retiring in 1991.[1]

Marshak shared the 1982 J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize with Maurice Goldhaber.[11] The next year he served as the president of the American Physical Society, previously having served on its council (1965-1969), as chairman of its Division of Particles and Fields (1969-1970), and as vice-president.[12]

Marshak died by accidental drowning in Cancún, Mexico.[1] In addition to Sudarshan, his doctoral students include Susumu Okubo[citation needed], Rabindra Mohapatra and Tullio Regge.[13]

Selected worksEdit

  • Marshak, Robert E. (1952). Meson Physics. New York: McGraw-Hill. OCLC 459312979
  • Marshak, Robert E.; Radha, T.K.; Raman, K. (1963?) Theory of Weak Interactions of Elementary Particles. Matscience report no. 10. Madras: Institute of Mathematical Sciences. OCLC 474785
  • Marshak, Robert E.; Blaker, J. Warren; Bethe, Hans A.; et al. (1966). Perspectivies in Modern Physics: Essays in Honor of Hans A. Bethe on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday, July 1966. New York: Interscience Publishers. OCLC 418981
  • Marshak, Robert E.; Riazuddin; Ryan, Ciaran P. (1969). Theory of Weak Interactions in Particle Physics. New York: Wiley-Interscience. OCLC 977600031
  • Marshak, Robert E.; Wurtemburg, Gladys (1982). Academic Renewal in the 1970s : Memoirs of a City College President. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America. ISBN 0819127795, 9780819127792, 0819127809, 9780819127808 OCLC 8763508
  • Marshak, Robert E. (1993). Conceptual Foundations of Modern Particle Physics. Singapore: World Scientific. ISBN 9810210981, 9789810210984, 9810211066, 9789810211066 OCLC 925757241


  1. ^ a b c d e Collections, Special. "Robert E. Marshak: A Brief Biography". Special Collections. Virginia Tech. Archived from the original on 2018-05-21. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  2. ^ "Robert Marshak". Atomic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  3. ^ Henley, Ernest M.; Lustig, Harry (1999). Robert Eugene Marshak, 1916-1992 (PDF). Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. p. 7.
  4. ^ Mehra, Jagdish (1994). The Beat of a Different Drum: The life and science of Richard Feynman. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. pp. 245–249. ISBN 978-0-19-853948-3.
  5. ^ "ECG Sudarshan Missed Out on Physics Nobel Despite Several Nominations. It Was the Prize's Loss". News18. 2018-05-14. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  6. ^ Mehra, p. 477.
  7. ^ "Robert E. Marshak". Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  8. ^ "Robert Eugene Marshak". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  9. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  10. ^ Daniels, Lee A. (25 December 1992). "Robert E. Marshak, 76, Ex-Head of City College". New York Times.
  11. ^ "Oppenheimer Prize awarded to Goldhaber and Marshak". Physics Today. 35 (9): 89. September 1982. Bibcode:1982PhT....35i..89.. doi:10.1063/1.2915276.
  12. ^ Henley and Lustig, p. 18.
  13. ^ Robert Marshak at the Mathematics Genealogy Project


External linksEdit