Photo of Yoichiro Nambu

Yoichiro Nambu

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For seminal contributions to the understanding of elementary particles and their interactions.

The Higgs boson, or as it’s commonly known, “God particle,’’ doesn’t carry theoretical physicist Yoichiro Nambu’s name. But his contribution to its discovery was monumental.

Nambu’s mathematical description was pivotal to the prediction of Higgs boson, which was discovered in 2012. For his ground-breaking work, Nambu received a Nobel Prize in 2008.

Nambu, who was born in Japan and earned a doctorate in physics from the Imperial University of Tokyo in 1952 (he had returned there after World War II as a research assistant), joined the staff of the University of Chicago in 1954 and began researching superconductivity. He developed a mathematical model to help explain the phenomenon of spontaneous symmetry breaking and the interaction of subatomic particles. Other physicists, including Peter Higgs, used his theories to help predict the Higg’s boson, a fundamental piece of the Standard Model for particle physics.

In a 2004 interview with Physics World magazine, Higgs said Nambu’s research was the bedrock upon which the prediction was built.

Nambu went on to chair the University of Chicago’s Physics Department for several years before retiring in 1991. He died in Osaka, Japan, in 2015.

By Robert Warren