Perl, Martin Lewis

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PERL, MARTIN LEWIS (1927– ), U.S. physicist and Nobel laureate. Perl was born in Brooklyn, New York City, and graduated early from Madison High School (1943), his education boosted by strong parental encouragement, prodigious reading and a great interest in working with tools, wood, chemicals and Erector (construction) sets. He gained his B.S. in chemical engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now Polytechnic University) (1948), a course interrupted by World War ii service in the U.S. Merchant Marine and Army. He worked for the General Electric Company before pursuing his now definitive career choice of physics at Columbia University (1950) where he completed his thesis under the supervision of I.I. Rabi (1955). He was a member of the physics department of the University of Michigan (1955–63), where he became professor, before moving to Stanford University's Linear Accelerator Center (1963) and where he has been professor of physics since 1970. His first 10 years of experimental research was in the complicated field of strong interactions of elementary particles such as the pion and proton. His basic interest in fundamental problems in physics led him to study the relation between the electron and the muon, which have many similar properties, although the muon is much heavier. Speculating that there might be heavier members of the electron-muon family, his theoretical and practical skills led to the discovery of the tau lepton, for which he received the Nobel Prize in physics (1995) and the Wolf Prize for physics (1982). His work thus extended the electron-muon to the electron-muon-tau family of which no heavier members have yet been found. His subsequent research centers on the relation between electrons, muons, and tau particles and on the search for elementary particles with a fraction of the electric charge of the electron. Perl's other research interests are in optical and electronic devices and liquid drop technology. Perl has always been a strong supporter of Israel and Jewish life in the U.S. He practices Reconstructionist Judaism.

[Michael Denman (2nd ed.)]