Robert Mills (physicist)


Robert Laurence Mills (April 15, 1927 – October 27, 1999) was an American physicist, specializing in quantum field theory, the theory of alloys, and many-body theory. While sharing an office at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Chen-Ning Yang and Robert Mills formulated in 1954 a theory now known as the Yang–Mills theory – "the foundation for current understanding of how subatomic particles interact, a contribution which has restructured modern physics and mathematics."[1]

Robert Laurence Mills
Robert Laurence Mills (cropped).jpg
Robert Laurence Mills
BornApril 15, 1927
DiedOctober 27, 1999 (aged 72)
Known forYang–Mills theory
Scientific career
FieldsTheoretical physics, quantum field theory

Mathematically, Yang and Mills proposed a tensor equation for what are now called Yang–Mills fields (this equation reduces to Maxwell's equations as a special case; see gauge theory):



Prof. Bob Mills was a well-loved colleague and teacher who is remembered fondly by all who shared time with him[2]

Mills was born in Englewood, New Jersey,[3] son of Dorothy C. and Frederick C. Mills.[4] He graduated from George School in Pennsylvania in early 1944. He studied at Columbia College from 1944 to 1948, while on leave from the Coast Guard. Mills demonstrated his mathematical ability by becoming a Putnam Fellow in 1948,[5] and by receiving first-class honors in the Tripos. Mills, who was still a novice theoretical physicist, met Yang and assisted him in polishing Yang's hypothesis on non-abelian gauge fields, which later became the Yang-Mills Theory and consequently the heart of modern physics.[6][7]

The mathematical ability he displayed early on was mastered in his eventual career as a full-time theoretical physicist. He earned a master's degree from Cambridge, and a Ph.D. in Physics under Norman Kroll, from Columbia University in 1955. After a year at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, Mills became Professor of Physics at Ohio State University in 1956. He remained at Ohio State University until his retirement in 1995.[1]

Mills and Yang shared the 1980 Rumford Premium Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for their "development of a generalized gauge invariant field theory" in 1954.

Personal lifeEdit

Mills was married to Elise Ackley in 1948. Together they had sons Edward and Jonathan, and daughters Katherine, Susan, and Dorothy. The Mills family lived for many years in Columbus, Ohio during Mills' tenure as professor at Ohio State University. He was an elder of Indianola Presbyterian Church and active in the international student community in Columbus. The family also spent considerable time during the summer and winter breaks at their property on Echo Lake in Charleston, Vermont,[8] where Robert spent his final months.

Selected publicationsEdit

Yang–Mills theory
  • Yang, C. N.; Mills, R. L. (1954). "Conservation of Isotopic Spin and Isotopic Gauge Invariance". Phys. Rev. 96 (1): 191–195. Bibcode:1954PhRv...96..191Y. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.96.191.
  • Mills, R. L.; Yang, C. N. (1966). "Treatment of Overlapping Divergences in the Photon Self-Energy Function". Progress of Theoretical Physics Supplement. 37: 507. Bibcode:1966PThPS..37..507M. doi:10.1143/PTPS.37.507.



  1. ^ a b Ravo, Nick (October 30, 1999). "Robert L. Mills, 72, Theorist In Realm of Subatomic Physics". New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2020. The [Yang-Mills] theory, according to The Scientist, provided the foundation for current understanding of how subatomic particles interact, a contribution which has restructured modern physics and mathematics.
  2. ^ "Professor Robert Mills Featured On The Cover Of Ohio State Alumni Magazine". April 15, 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  3. ^ Staff. A COMMUNITY OF SCHOLARS: The Institute for Advanced Study Faculty and Members 1930-1980, p. 292. Institute for Advanced Study, 1980. Accessed November 22, 2015. "Mills, Robert L. 55-56 M(NS), Theoretical Physics Born 1927 Englewood, NJ."
  4. ^ "Columbia College Today".
  5. ^ "Putnam Competition Individual and Team Winners". Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  6. ^ Gray, Jeremy; Wilson, Robin (2012-12-06). Mathematical Conversations: Selections from The Mathematical Intelligencer. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 63. ISBN 9781461301950.
  7. ^ Yang, C. N.; Mills, R. (1954). "Conservation of Isotopic Spin and Isotopic Gauge Invariance". Physical Review. 96 (1): 191–195. Bibcode:1954PhRv...96..191Y. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.96.191.
  8. ^ "Dr Robert Laurence MILLS". Retrieved 20 September 2020.


  • Marateck, Samuel L. (2003). "Remembering Robert Mills". Physics Today. 56 (10): 14–15. Bibcode:2003PhT....56j..14M. doi:10.1063/1.1628986.
  • Yang, C. N. (2005). "Remembering Robert Mills". In 't Hooft, Gerardus (ed.). 50 years of Yang–Mills theory. Singapore: World Scientific. ISBN 978-981-238-934-3.

External linksEdit