July 4, 2012: Letter to the Brown Community

Dear Members of the Brown Community,

Along with millions of people across the world, we read the news from CERN this morning with great excitement and appreciation for the decades of research which led to this historic achievement. The announcement that physicists, working collaboratively with teams from many nations, have discovered a new particle that is consistent with the Higgs boson marks both a significant accomplishment in the decades-long elucidation of the Standard Model and a new era of research aimed at better understanding and explaining the fundamental make-up of the physical universe. We also note and celebrate with great pride the role that Brown faculty have played in this important discovery.

In 1964, Gerald Guralnik, the Chancellor’s Professor of Physics at Brown, was one of six physicists to first describe a theory that became an essential component of the standard model of physics and posited the existence of an elusive particle that thousands of scholars have sought for decades. Physicists believe the particle is responsible for why some other fundamental particles have mass and others do not. Their research was originally disregarded by many in the field, including by scholars as esteemed as Werner Heisenberg who told Gerry in 1965 that his theory was “junk” (in retrospect, Professor Heisenberg perhaps should have said he was uncertain about the new findings...). Today’s announcement is an affirmation of the pioneering work of Gerry and his colleagues, and the worldwide acclaim for their theory is entirely well-deserved.

Over the ensuing decades, countless other physics faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and staff at Brown have contributed tremendously to our understanding of the physical world. Many have worked at the frontiers of high-energy particle physics research. Several of them have been particularly involved with the research that led to the findings of the CMS experiment at CERN, including Professors Greg Landsberg, Meenakshi Narain, Ulrich Heintz, and David Cutts, and numerous Brown University students and postdoctoral researchers. More information about their work and the exciting future of research in this field at Brown and elsewhere can be found on-line.

Please join us in congratulating our colleagues for this extraordinary set of achievements.


Christina H. Paxson

Mark S. Schlissel