Prof. David Politzer, seated second from the left, as Manhattan Project physicist Robert Serber, in the 1989 film Fat Man and Little Boy.

Hugh David Politzer (born 31 August 1949) is an American theoretical physicist. He shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics with David J. Gross and Frank Wilczek for their discovery of asymptotic freedom in quantum chromodynamics.

Politzer was born in New York City. 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 Ph.D. 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, given by the color charge, will be between them. 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 David Gross and Frank Wilczek at Princeton University -- was extremely important in the development of quantum chromodynamics, the theory of the strong nuclear interactions.

With Thomas Appelquist, Politzer also played a central role in predicting the existence of "charmonium," an elementary particle made by a charm quark and its anti-particle. Experimentalists called this the "J/Ψ particle."

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 as Manhattan Project physicist Robert Serber in the movie Fat Man and Little Boy, which starred Paul Newman as General Leslie Groves.


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