Hugh David Politzer

Hugh David Politzer (/ˈpɑːlɪtsər/; born August 31, 1949) is an American theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology. He shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics with David Gross and Frank Wilczek for their discovery of asymptotic freedom in quantum chromodynamics.[1]

Hugh David Politzer
Born (1949-08-31) August 31, 1949
NationalityUnited States
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Harvard University
Known forQuantum chromodynamics, asymptotic freedom
AwardsNobel Prize in Physics (2004)
Scientific career
InstitutionsCalifornia Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisorSidney Coleman
Doctoral studentsStephen Wolfram

Life and career

Politzer was born in New York City. His parents, Alan and Valerie Politzer, both from Czechoslovakia, immigrated to the U.S. after World War II and were both doctors. He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1966, received his bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1969, and his PhD in 1974 from Harvard University, where his graduate advisor was Sidney Coleman.

In his first published article, which appeared in 1973, Politzer described the phenomenon of asymptotic freedom: the closer quarks are to each other, the weaker the strong interaction will be between them.[2] When quarks are in extreme proximity, the nuclear force between them is so weak that they behave almost like free particles. This result—independently discovered at around the same time by Gross and Wilczek at Princeton University—was extremely important in the development of quantum chromodynamics. With Thomas Appelquist, Politzer also played a central role in predicting the existence of "charmonium", a subatomic particle formed of a charm quark and a charm antiquark.

Politzer was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows from 1974 to 1977 before moving to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he is currently professor of theoretical physics. In 1989, he appeared in a minor role in the movie Fat Man and Little Boy, as Manhattan Project physicist Robert Serber. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2004 was awarded jointly to David J. Gross, H. David Politzer and Frank Wilczek "for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction."


Politzer played a role in the 1989 movie "Fat Man and Little Boy", about the Manhattan project.[3]

Politzer was also the lead vocalist in the 1980s for "Professor Politzer and the Rho Mesons", which put out their single, "The Simple Harmonic Oscillator".[4][5]

Politzer's Erdős-Bacon number is 5 -- via appearing in Fat Man and Little Boy[6] with Laura Dern (in Novocaine with Kevin Bacon,) and publishing once with Sidney Coleman (Erdős number 2).


  • Politzer, H.D. (1974). "Asymptotic Freedom: An Approach to Strong Interactions". Physics Reports. 14 (4): 129–180. Bibcode:1974PhR....14..129D. doi:10.1016/0370-1573(74)90014-3.
  1. "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2004". Nobel Web. 2004. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  2. H.D. Politzer (1973). "Reliable perturbative results for strong interactions?". Physical Review Letters. 30 (26): 1346–1349. Bibcode:1973PhRvL..30.1346P. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.30.1346.
  3. "David Politzer Wins Nobel Prize in Physics | Caltech". The California Institute of Technology. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  5. "David Politzer".
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