Wolf Prize Laureate in Physics 1991
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Brookhaven National Laboratory, USA
“for their separate seminal contributions to nuclear and particle physics, particularly those concerning the weak interactions involving leptons”.
Goldhaber’s and Telegdi’s studies in nuclear physics and the weak interactions are characterized by their incisive quality as well as the elegance of their conceptual formulation and execution.
Among Professor Maurice Goldhaber’s investigations we especially mention:
(1) the photodisintegration of the deuteron with Chadwick (1935).
(2) the dipole vibrations of the nucleus with Teller (1948) which explained the giant electric dipole resonances in nuclei and which was the first of a number of collective motions of the nucleus which have been subsequently observed.
(3) the classification of nuclear isomers and their elucidation via the shell model (1951).
(4) the measurement of the helicity of the electron neutrino with Grodzins and Sunyar (1958) emitted in K capture leading to the formation of an excited state of 152Sm which decays electromagnetically to its ground state
(5) he entertained the possibility in 1978-1979 that the proton may decay with a very long lifetime and became a driving force in the attempt to observe it experimentally.
Each of these examples has been of great importance to the development of nuclear and weak interaction physics. The measurement of the helicity of the neutrino demonstrated unequivocally the nature of the weak interactions in nuclei. It was a particularly beautiful experiment as it directly connected the helicity of the neutrino with the observable helicity of the photon emitted in the decay of the excited state of 152Sm.
Goldhaber has always had an active interest in the status of the symmetries and selection rules of the fundamental interactions. An example is the proton decay experiment. As of 1989, this study showed that the decay rate was less than 10 -33/proton years. This research result excluded a number of “Grand Unified Theories”, which proposed to unify the quark and lepton degrees of freedom.