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Date: December 3, 1999
Physicist Sam Bard Treiman Dies
PRINCETON, N.J. -- Sam Bard Treiman, widely known for his contributions to the field of elementary particle physics, died Tuesday at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York after an extended battle with leukemia. He was 74.
"Treiman played an enormously important role in particle physics, especially in the fifties and sixties when the subject was taking on its modern shape," said Curtis Callan, chairman of the Princeton Physics Department and one of Treiman's students. "First, he defined and exemplified a new style of theory in which the theorist became an active partner with the experimentalist in interpreting and devising critical experiments. Second, he was an extraordinary mentor of students and young scientists, the most outstanding of whom went on to play key roles in the establishment of the Standard Model of particle physics."
"Sam Treiman's integrity, his high intelligence, his talent for exposition and making complicated ideas simple, and his marvelous humor, will evoke fond memories for those privileged to have known him. He was at the center of Princeton physics for many years" said his colleague of many years, Nobel Laureate and Professor of Physics Val Fitch.
Treiman's scientific work spanned all areas of particle physics, but he had the greatest love for, and the deepest impact on, weak interaction physics. The weak interaction is one of the four known forces of nature (the others being the strong interaction, electromagnetism and gravitation). Treiman's analysis of a kind of radioactivity called nuclear beta-decay set the framework for all subsequent experimental studies of how space-time symmetry (especially the symmetry known as time-reversal invariance) breaks down within the nuclei of atoms. In the mid-sixties, he had a similar impact on the understanding of symmetry violation in the decays of elementary particles, especially the K-meson.
In 1959, Treiman and Princeton colleague Marvin Goldberger derived what became known as the Goldberger-Treiman relation, a result that gave a quantitative connection between two seemingly disparate areas of physics, the strong- and weak-interaction properties of the proton and neutron. That discovery catalyzed a series of developments over the next fifteen years that eventually allowed scientists to explain all of strong- and weak-interaction physics in terms of quantum field theory. Those combined theories are known today as the Standard Model of elementary particle physics.
He was a revered teacher and mentor. His impact on science is to be seen not only in his writings, but also in the careers of his many students and young faculty associates who have risen to prominence in science. His first graduate student, Steven Weinberg, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. His exceptional achievements as a teacher of graduate students were honored in 1985 with the Oersted Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers.
Treiman was born in Chicago on May 27, 1925 of immigrant parents. He grew up in that city, attending Crane Technical High. He entered Northwestern University on scholarship in 1942, intending to study chemical engineering but soon discovering a love of physics. His studies were interrupted by World War II and he served in the US Navy from 1944 to 1946, doing duty as a radar technician in the Philippines. After the war, supported by the GI Bill, he resumed his pursuit of physics at the University of Chicago, earning the degrees of BS (1949), MS (1950) and PhD (1952). He joined the Princeton faculty as an Instructor in Physics in 1952, was promoted to Professor in 1963 and was appointed the Eugene V. Higgins Professor of Physics in 1977. He served as chairman of the Physics Department from 1981 to 1987 and chaired the University Research Board from 1988 to 1995, retiring from active duty in 1998.
His advice on national science issues was widely sought and his service in this arena included, among many others, membership on the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel of the Department of Energy and membership on the Board of Governors of the Superconducting Supercollider.
He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1972 and was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.
Treiman is survived by his wife of 47 years, Joan Little Treiman; two daughters, Rebecca Treiman of Pleasant Ridge, Michigan, and Katherine Treiman of Rockville, Maryland; a son, Thomas Treiman of Holts Summit, Missouri; and seven grandchildren. Burial will be private and the family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Amnesty International, the Leukemia Society of America or The International Rescue Committee. A gathering of remembrance for friends and colleagues will be organized on the Princeton campus sometime early in the new year.
Note: A photograph of Sam Treiman is available for download at http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pictures/s-z/treiman. Information on the gathering of remembrance will be posted, when available, on the Physics Department website at http://physics.princeton.edu.