Edward Witten

The World in A Superstring

Albert Einstein labored unsuccessfully for decades to create a theory that would merge relativity and quantum physics into one tidy mathematical package. But where Einstein failed, physicists may finally be on the verge of success, largely thanks to Edward Witten, generally considered the greatest theoretical physicist in the world. "Ed is unique," says John Schwarz, a theorist at Caltech, "the kind of person who comes along once a century."

The tall, thin, soft-spoken Witten, 52, didn't even set out to be a scientist. He majored in history at Brandeis and originally planned to be a journalist but ended up getting a...

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