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Martin L. Perl

Martin L. PerlAKA Martin Lewis Perl

Born: 24-Jun-1927
Birthplace: New York City
Died: 30-Sep-2014
Location of death: Palo Alto, CA
Cause of death: Heart Attack

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Discovered the tau lepton

Military service: US Merchant Marine (1944-45); US Army (1945-46)

American physicist Martin L. Perl discovered the tau lepton, a heavy lepton with a mass greater than the proton and the first known member of the third quark-lepton family, in 1974. The tau lepton is a subatomic particle similar in some regards to the electron, but several thousand times heavier and far shorter lived.

When Perl began his work, scientists knew of only four leptons: electrons, muons, and their corresponding neutrinos. The last known lepton had been discovered in 1936, and when Perl used the new Stanford Positron-Electron Asymmetry Ring (SPEAR) at Stanford University to search for further leptons it was considered a largely theoretical exercise. The tau lepton is now known to be a fundamental building block of matter, and its discovery added to the evidence supporting the Big Bang theory. Perl was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1995, sharing the honor with Frederick Reines, who discovered the neutrino.

Father: Oscar Perl (stationery salesman)
Mother: Fay Resenthal (secretary)
Sister: Lila Perl
Wife: Teri (div., one daughter, three sons)
Daughter: Anne Bernard
Son: Jed
Son: Joseph
Son: Matthew

    High School: James Madison High School, Brooklyn, NY (1942)
    University: United States Merchant Marine Academy (attended, 1944-45)
    University: BS Chemical Engineering, Polytechnic University of New York (1948)
    University: Union College (attended, 1949-50)
    University: PhD Nuclear Physics, Columbia University (1955)
    Teacher: Physics, University of Michigan (1955-63)
    Professor: Physics, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University (1963-2004)
    Administrator: Chair, High-Energy Physics Faculty, Stanford University (1991-97)

    Wolf Prize in Physics 1982 (with Leon M. Lederman)
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1995 (with Frederick Reines)
    General Electric Chemical Engineer (1948-50)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Physical Society
    CERN Scientific Policy Committee, 1990-93
    Federation of American Scientists Board of Sponsors
    National Academy of Sciences
    Scientists and Engineers for America
    Kerry Victory 2004
    Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society
    Jewish Ancestry
    Polish Ancestry
    Russian Ancestry

Official Website:

Author of books:
High Energy Hadron Physics (1974, physics)
Reflections on Experimental Science (1996, physics; collected papers)

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