Nuclear Physics: Order in the Zoo

The 15-year-old Yale freshman wanted to study archaeology, but his father thought engineering was a more promising profession. "I couldn't stand engineering," recalls Caltech's Professor Murray Gell-Mann, the former child prodigy, "so I put down the closest thing, physics." It was a happy choice. Last week, for his brilliant work on the basic nature of the atom, Gell-Mann, now 40, won the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics.

In the early 1950s, when Gell-Mann made his debut as a theoretical physicist, the discovery of a host of strange and short-lived bits of matter had turned the once orderly world of subatomic...

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