Sam Treiman
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Sam Treiman
Sam Treiman
Born(1925-05-27)May 27, 1925
Chicago, United States
DiedNovember 30, 1999(1999-11-30) (aged 74)
New York City, United States
Alma materNorthwestern University
University of Chicago
Known forGoldberger-Treiman relation
Callan-Treiman relation
Coining the term "Standard Model"[1]
AwardsOersted Medal (1985)
Scientific career
InstitutionsPrinceton University
Doctoral advisorEnrico Fermi
John Alexander Simpson
Doctoral studentsCurtis Callan
Stephen L. Adler
Steven Weinberg
Paul B. Kantor
Herbert H. Chen
Stephen Schutz
Bennie Ward

Sam Bard Treiman (; May 27, 1925 - November 30, 1999) was an American theoretical physicist who produced research in the fields of cosmic rays, quantum physics, plasma physics and gravity physics. He made contributions to the understanding of the weak interaction and he and his students are credited with developing the so-called standard model of elementary particle physics.[2] He was a Higgins professor of physics at Princeton University, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and member of the JASON Defense Advisory Group. He was a student of Enrico Fermi and John Alexander Simpson Jr. Treiman published articles on quantum mechanics, plasmas, gravity theory, condensed matter and the history of physics.


Treiman's parents, Abraham and Sarah, were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who emigrated to Chicago. Sam had a brother, Oscar, who was six years older. Sam was educated in the Chicago public school system and, after graduating high school in 1942, he entered Northwestern University, electing to study chemical engineering. After two years at Northwestern he joined the navy, training as a radar repair technician and he spent the last year of the war as a petty officer in the Philippines, doing, in his words, "a prodigious amount of reading in the peaceful jungles - novels and science".[3] After the war he went to the University of Chicago, receiving a B.S. (1949) and M.S. (1950), having changed his major to physics. He received an Atomic Energy Commission predoctoral fellowship and in 1952 he was granted a PhD by the University of Chicago.[4] His doctoral thesis dealt with the physics of cosmic rays, and the work was done under the supervision of John Alexander Simpson. While at the university, Sam met his wife, Joan Little, an educational psychologist. They have three children - Rebecca, Katherine and Thomas.

Sam began teaching at Princeton in 1952 as an instructor. He spent his entire career at Princeton - associate professor (1958-63), professor (1963-77) and Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics (1977-1998). He served as chair of the physics department (1981-87) and chair of the University Research Board (1988-95). Probably his best known student at Princeton was Steven Weinberg, recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1979. Other well known students are Nicola Khuri (1957), Curtis Callan (1964), and Stephen L. Adler (1964).

When Fermilab was set up in 1970, the founder, Robert R. Wilson, invited Treiman to direct the theory group. Rather than leave Princeton permanently, Treiman took a number of extended leaves of absence, in order to get the group started. As a member of the National Academy of Sciences and JASON Defense Advisory Group, he was a key advisor to the U.S. Government in the fields of plasma physics, physics education and strategic planning. Treiman and his wife were active members of CUSPEA - a program conceived by T.D. Lee to facilitate the admission of mainland Chinese students to graduate education in the U.S. The couple visited China in 1981, 1982 and 1988 to examine and interview prospective candidates.

A feature of Treiman's work was his ability to devise simple, unambiguous experimental tests for theoretical predictions and phenomena. In addition to his own work, Treiman was widely recognized as a teacher and mentor, supervising more than two dozen graduate students over three decades. His Socratic teaching style enabled his students to gain valuable insights without having been spoon fed the results. He was known for his general wisdom as well as his expertise. One of his more paradoxical sayings is known as Treiman's theorem: "Impossible things usually don't happen."[5] He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1963.[6] Treiman was awarded the Oersted medal by the American Association of Physics Teachers in 1995. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Sam Treiman died of leukemia on November 30, 1999.

Major scientific achievements


  • Sam Treiman's publication records in SPIRES [1]
  • Treiman, Sam B. (1999). The Odd Quantum. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00926-0.
  • Photonics: Managing Competitiveness in the Information Era, Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Applications, Vice Chairman S. Treiman, Board on Physics and Astronomy, National Academy of Sciences (1988)


  1. ^ Cao, Tian Yu. Conceptual developments of 20th century field theories. Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 320.
  2. ^ Biographical memoir for the National Academy of Sciences by Steve Adler, pg. 1.
  3. ^ Adler, op. cit. pg 2
  4. ^ Adler, Stephen L. (August 2000). "Obituary: Sam Bard Treiman". Physics Today. 53 (8): 63. Bibcode:2000PhT....53h..63A. doi:10.1063/1.1310130. Archived from the original on 2013-10-11.
  5. ^ Frank Wilczek and Betsy Devine, Longing for the Harmonies: Themes and Variations from Modern Physics (1987); 1989 pbk edition
  6. ^ "APS Fellow Archive".

Further reading

External links

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