Nobel-winning physicist, UT professor Steven Weinberg dies at 88

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Steven Weinberg (Courtesy of UT Austin)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin lost one of its brightest minds Saturday, as Nobel Prize-winning physics and astronomy professor Steven Weinberg died at 88.

Weinberg, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 and the National Medal of Science in 1991, was one of the most decorated UT faculty members and is best known for his research on subatomic particles.

“The passing of Steven Weinberg is a loss for The University of Texas and for society. Professor Weinberg unlocked the mysteries of the universe for millions of people, enriching humanity’s concept of nature and our relationship to the world,” said UT president Jay Hartzell. “From his students to science enthusiasts, from astrophysicists to public decision makers, he made an enormous difference in our understanding. In short, he changed the world.”

The professor was born May 3, 1933 in New York and attended Cornell University for his undergraduate studies and received his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He previously taught at several high-profile schools including Columbia, Berkeley, M.I.T. and Harvard. He taught at UT since 1982.

Weinberg was the author of several academic papers and books, including “Foundations of Modern Physics,” which was released just this year. He was widely respected for his writing style, explaining in 2015 he found it important to not “write down to the public. You have to keep in mind that you’re writing for people who are not mathematically trained but are just as smart as you are.”

Back in 2016, Weinberg announced he would ban guns in his class after statewide “campus carry” became law in August of that year. At the time, Weinberg said he was willing to subject himself to a lawsuit over the issue.

“This has never been heard in a federal court — certainly not the Supreme Court. The issue of whether the admission of guns in classrooms puts an undue burden on First Amendment rights,” Weinberg said. “I think it should be… We should allow the courts to decide this issue. And I am not so sure that they wouldn’t decide it in the way that we would find agreeable.”

Weinberg is survived by his wife, UT Austin law professor Louise Weinberg, and their daughter, Elizabeth.

Tributes

The scientific and academic community took to social media Saturday afternoon to pay respects to Weinberg.

Writer/journalist Lawrence Wright described Weinberg as a “delightful companion” who will be missed.

Biographer Graham Farmelo called Weinberg, “one of the greatest and most influential theoretical physicists of the past century.”

World Health Organization expert and Google Health board member John Nosta remembered Weinberg as “a great voice of wisdom and insights.”

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