Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg, celebrated scientific mind, dies, 88

Nobel Prize-winning physicist and astronomer Prof. Steven Weinberg passed away Friday at the age of 88, according to a statement from the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin).

The cause of death has not yet been determined, though according to the Washington Post, he had been hospitalized for some time.

Born in 1933 in New York City to Jewish immigrants, Weinberg would go on to have a landmark career in academia. His most famous work was a paper he published in 1967 that discussed the interaction between electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force – two of the universe’s four fundamental forces, which work as part of a unified electroweak force. 

Simply titled “A Model of Leptons,” the paper was barely even three pages long, published in the academic journal Physical Review Letters. However, the impact it has has on the field of physics is nothing short of immense, being one of the single most cited works ever in the field of high-energy physics.

The equation-filled article discussed and theorized concepts and properties that had never been observed before, but which played key roles in the progression of the field. His predictions were supported in later years, including by the discovery of the Higgs boson particle in 2012 at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

This work later saw him awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 along with fellow scientists Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam.

Despite the complexity behind his work, however, Weinberg was also known for trying to make science more accessible. In his 1977 work The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe, he walked readers through the first minutes of the existence of the universe – itself a very complex topic – in a way that was easy to understand, as noted by Live Science.

But Weinberg wasn’t just known for his scientific fame and accomplishments. Rather, he was also a noted activist, working as a spokesman for science. He had spoken to Congress, lectured on the history and philosophy of science and made waves for taking a stand against concealed carry guns in UT classrooms.

But Weinberg was also an outspoken advocate of the State of Israel. This was especially noted in his 1997 essay, “Zionism and Its Adversaries.”

He had also been an outspoken advocate against antisemitism, something he considered boycotting Israel to constitute.

According to the UK daily The Guardian, Weinberg wrote that “I know that some will say that these boycotts are directed only against Israel, rather than generally against Jews.

“But given the history of the attacks on Israel and the oppressiveness and aggressiveness of other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, boycotting Israel indicated a moral blindness for which it is hard to find any explanation other than antisemitism.” 

Weinberg is survived by his wife, UT Austin Law Prof. Louise Weinberg, and their daughter, Elizabeth.