Ennackal Chandy George Sudarshan was born in Kottayam, Kerala State, India on September 16, 1931 to Ennackal Ipe Chandy and Kaithail Varghese Achamma. His father was a revenue inspector and his mother a school teacher. He had two siblings., Joseph and Thomas Alexander. He attended Church Missionary Society College and Madras Christian College where he earned a B.Sc. with honors in 1951 at the age of 20. He continued at Madras, receiving an MA in 1952. For the next three years he was a research assistant at the celebrated Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bombay.
In December of 1954, George married Lalita Rau. They had three children, Alexander, Arvind and Ashok. it was during this time that George added the Hindu name, Sudarshan. George and Lalita were divorced in 1990 and he married Bhamathi Gopalakrishnan in Austin, Texas.
In 1955, he came to the U. S. to study physics at the University of Rochester. He completed his PhD in 1958. He then receved a Corporation Fellowship to work at Harvard University. In 1959, we was appointed assistant professor at U. of Rochester. In 1964, he was appointed Professor & Director Program in Elementary Particles at Syracuse University. In 1969, he joined the University of Texas as Professor of Physics. The following year he was appointed Director of the Center for Particle Physics at Texas. George held a number of positions simultaniously with his appointment at Texas. These included Senior Professor; Center for Theoretical Studies; Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore India and Director, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, India.
George died in Austin, Texas on May 13, 2018.
A Special Section of the journal Current Science, Volume 116, No. 2, January, 25, 2019 was devoted to the life and career of George Sudarshn. A link to that issue can be found at E. C. G. Sudarshan.
A detailed account of the career and contributions to science of George Sudarshan is found at Friends of George Sudarshan
A curriculum vita from that site is reproduced here.
Date of birth: September 16, 1931
Place of birth: Kottayam, Kerala State, India
Parents: Ennackal Ipe Chandy and Kaithail Varghese Achamma
1946–1948 C.M.S. (Church Missionary Society) College, Kottayam, Kerala State, India.
1948–1951 B.Sc. (Hons) Madras Christian College, Tambaram, Tamil Nadu, India.
1951–1952 M.A. University of Madras, Madras, Tamil Nadu, India.
1952–1955 Research Assistant; Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay, India.
1955–1958 Ph.D. University of Rochester, Rochester, New York.
1951–1952 Demonstrator and resident tutor—physics; Madras Christian College
1952–1955 Research Assistant; Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay
1955–1957 Teaching Assistant; University of Rochester
1957–1959 Corporation Fellow; Harvard University
1959–1961 Assistant Professor; University of Rochester
1961–1963 Associate Professor; University of Rochester
1963–1964 Visiting Professor; Institute of Exact Sciences, Bern, Switzerland
1964–1969 Professor & Director Program in Elementary Particles; Syracuse University
1969—present Professor; University of Texas, Austin
1970–1991 Director; Center for Particle Theory, University of Texas, Austin
1971–1991 Senior Professor; Center for Theoretical Studies; Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore India
1984—1991 Director, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, India.
Honors and Awards
1969—D.Sc.University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee (Honoris Causa)
1970—Sir C.V. Raman Distinguished Professor of Physics - Madras University
1973—D.Sc. (Honoris Causa) - University of Delhi, India
1974—Padma Bhushan (Order of the Lotus) - decoration presented by President of India
1976—Honors Award - Association of Indians in America, New York
1977—Bose Medal - Indian National Science Academy
1980—Science and Technology Award - Kerala State Government
1984—D.Sc. (Engg) - Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden
1986—The First Prize in Physics - Third World Academy of Science, Italy
1987—D.Sc. (Honoris Causa) - University of Madras, India
1988—Distinguished Scientist - Andhra Pradesh Akademi of Sciences, Hyderabad India
1989—D.Sc. (Honoris Causa), Burdwan Univeristy, Burdwan, India
1993—D.Sc. (Honoris Causa), Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kochi, India
1997—D.Sc. (Honoris Causa), Kerala University, Trivandrum, India
1998—Desikottama (Distinguished Scholar), Visva Bharati Univ., Santi Niketan, India
2000–-2002 Chairman, World Malayalee Council
2004—Vedanta Sastra Ratnakar, International Vedanta Society, Oxford, Ohio, USA
2006—Presidential Citation, The University of Texas at Austin
2010—Award Dirac Medal
Memberships in Professional Organizations
1962—present Fellow of the American Physical Society
1963—present Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences
1971—present Fellow of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Kiev
1972—present Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy
1985—present Third World Academy of Sciences
1985—present Honorary Fellow of Calcutta Mathematical Society
1987—present Titular Member of L'Académie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences
1995—present Honorary Fellow, Central Institute for English and Other Foreign Languages, Hyderabad
1999—present Fellow, European Academy for Arts, Science and Literature
2001—present Honorary Fellow, Indian Institute for Advanced Study, Shimla, India
Service to Science
Member Editorial Boards:
Journal of Mathematical Physics
Journal of Mathematics and Physics (Indian Institute of Technology, Madras India)
Reports on Mathematical Physics
Journal of Social and Biological Structures
Letters in Mathematical Physics
Referee for: Physical Review, Physical Review Letters, Journal of Mathematical Physics, Journal of Optical Society of America
•Senior Professor—Center for Theoretical Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore India
•Director—Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Madras India
•American Men of Science
•Leaders in American Education
•World Who's Who
•International Who's Who in Community Service
•Directory of International Biography
•Personalities of the South
Ph.D Students (with present positions):
1.R. Acharya (Professor Arizona State Univ)
2.K. Bardakci Professor U C Berkeley)
3.T. Jordan Professor Univ of Minnesota)
4.D. G. Currie (Professor Univ of Maryland)
5.M. Y. Han (Professor Duke Univ.)
6.M. E. Arons (Professor Long Island Univ.)
7.G. Pinski (Psychiatrist)
8.J. Schechter (Professor Syracuse Univ)
9.N. Mukunda (Professor IISc , Bangalore)
10.J. G. Kuriyan (UCLA/ now in private enterprise)
11.C. C. Chiang (Prof, Academia Sinica, Taipei)
12.Hans Bebie (Director, Institute of Exact Sciences)
13.Hans Hofer (Experimental High Energy, Bern)
14.P. M. Valanju (Reseach Scientist, Institute for Fusion Studies, Univ of Texas)
15.E. Mac (not known)
16.J. Underwood (A C C , Austin)
17.M. A. Khalil (Environment Research Institute , Portland)
18.M .Byrd (Southern Illinois Univ, Carbondale)
19.M. Mims (Private Enterprise)
20.T. Tilma (Japan)
21.E. Chisolm (LANL, Los Alamos)
22.A. Burcu (Financial Services)
23.S. Gousheh (Teheran, Iran)
24.Al Hendi (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
25.S. Varma (Financial services)
26.A. Shaji (Univ of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM)
27.Hans Schatz (Institute of Exact Sciences, Bern)
28.Urjit Yagnik (IUCAA, Pune, India)
Current Ph.D. students at University of Texas at Austin:
Past research associates and their current status:
1.H. J. Schnitzer (Professor Brandeis Univ.)
2.P. Cziffra (LRL, Livermore, Ca.)
3.A. J. Macfarlane (Professor Cambridge Univ, U.K.)
4.C. Ryan (Deceased)
5.I. Gyuk (Professor Univ of Wisconsin/Milwaukee)
6.N. Papstamatiou (Professor Univ of Wisconsin/Milwaukee)
7.K. Raman (Professor Weslyan Univ, Middletown, CT)
8.C. C. Chiang (Professor Academia Sinica, Taipei)
9.J. Mehra (Professor ICTP, Trieste, Italy)
10.F. Zaccaria (Professor University of Naples, Naples, Italy)
11.A. Simoni (Professor University of Naples, Naples, Italy)
12.G. Maiella (Professor University of Naples, Naples, Italy)
13.L. P. Hsu (unknown)
14.S. K. Yun (unknown)
15.A. Gleeson (Professor Univ of Texas at Austin, Austin, Tx)
16.A. Bohm (Professor Univ of Texas at Austin, Austin, Tx)
17.H. Rechenberg (Professor Max Planck Institute, Munich, Germany)
18.M. Gundzik (Private Enterprise)
19.N. Mukunda (Professor IISc, Bangalore, India)
20.X. Tata (Professor Univ of Hawaii, Hawaii)
21.T.. N. Sherry (Unknown)
22.Tom Imbo (Professor Univ of Chicago , Chicago , Il)
23.S. P. Nandi (Professor Oklahoma State Univ.)
24.P. Valanju (Research Scientist, University of Texas at Austin)
25.C. Gardiner (Professor, New Zealand)
26.W. A. Hurley (not known)
27.K. H. Wang (not known)
28.R. M. Moore (not known)
29.C. A. Nelson (Professor, SUNY, Binghamton)
30.M. Y. Han (Professor, Duke Univ)
31.B. Misra (Univ. of Thessaloniki, Greece)
32.S. Pakvasa (Professor, Univ of Hawaii)
33.Fr. Jacques Voisin (Louvain Univ, Belgium)
34.E. Takasugi (Professor, Osaka Univ, Japan)
By: Lee Clippard
Posted: Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
AUSTIN, Texas–Texas physicist George Sudarshan will share the 2010 Dirac Medal and Prize with Italian physicist Nicola Cabibbo for the two scientists’ work on the fundamental forces of nature.
The prize is given by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy.
The award recognizes the physicists’ fundamental contributions to the understanding of weak interactions and other aspects of theoretical physics. The weak interaction is one of the four fundamental forces of nature, along with strong interaction, electromagnetism and gravity. It is crucial to the structure of our universe, as it, among other things, causes fusion in the sun.
Sudarshan’s important contributions to theoretical physics include the discovery (with Robert Marshak) of the V-A theory of weak interactions, which opened the way to the full description of the unified electroweak theory. He has also made innovative discoveries in the field of quantum optics, including the Optical Equivalence Theorem, which provides the foundation upon which the investigations of the manifestly quantum or non-classical character of the electromagnetic field are based.
Cabibbo, of the University La Sapienza in Rome, Italy, was cited for his important contributions to theoretical physics include the recognition of the significance of mixing in weak interactions, which has established the existence of a new class of physical constants, whose first example is the Cabibbo angle. This angle determines the mixing of strange quarks with non-strange quarks and has been measured experimentally. With the discovery of a third family of quarks and leptons, quark mixing led to the understanding of the phenomenon of CP violation. Cabibbo is currently chair of ICTP’s Scientific Council.
ICTP’s Dirac Medal is given in honor of P.A.M. Dirac, one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century and a staunch friend of the Centre. It is awarded annually on Dirac’s birthday, August 8, to scientists who have made significant contributions to physics. The Medallists also receive a prize of $5,000.
To celebrate George Sudarshan's 75th birthday. a group of George's Friends hosted a symposium at the University of Texas.The symposium was organized by Professor Rodger Walser and Alaka and Prashant Valanju. From that effort came a historically significant website dediated to the 7 Science Quests of George Sudarshan. The quests are: 1. V-A: Universal Theory of Weak Interaction, 2. Symmetry, 3. Spin Statistics, 4. Quantum Optical Coherence: Sudarshan Representation, 5. Quantum Zeno Effect, 6. Theory of Tachyons, 7. Quantum Mechanics of Open Systems. A link to the site is here:
The following talk was given at a celebration of George Sudarshan 75th birthday at the University of Texas, 2009.
Sudarshan: Seven Science Quests, IOP Publishing
Journal of Physics: Conference Series 196 (2009)
It is a privilege for me to speak in this august assembly of distinguished physicists and scholars on this joyous celebratory occasion about a man of the stature of Professor George Sudarshan. It is also a personal pleasure for me to be doing this since I have regarded George as a good and esteemed friend for many decades now.
However, this legitimate honor is also a challenge: On what scientific aspect of this creative physicist can I dare to speak to this audience after listening during these past two days to thoughtful presentations on a variety of topics to which George has made significant contributions? Many of his germinal ideas, papers and visions have been explored and extended by fellow specialists in the fields who have assembled here.
I am even less equipped to talk about his interest in Malayalam literature, for, to put it in positive terms, my expertise in Malayalam is of the same depth as my scholarship in the literatures of Mandarin and Mongolian.
So, as one who has followed Sudarshan’s career both as caring friend and as interested observer, I will reflect on some matters in general terms. I will need no experimental set up for this, no theory to place them in a deductive framework, and no mathematics to give them calculational confirmation.
I recall with fondness the summer course that he gave at Brandeis in 1961. It was here that I met Sudarshan for the first time. There he was, a young and dashing physicist, displaying absolute mastery over his subject. He spoke with a wit and eloquence that was subtly enriched by his mellifluous Kottayam accent. He expounded to the eager post-docs in the room the latest results of Quantum Field Theory. I sat there in utter awe of this young man who began his lecture with a quote from Ernst Mach. I knew right away that he was not just another number-churning theoretical physicist. He went beyond formulas and calculations, and probed into the epistemological roots of the subject. He reminded me of the lines of Alexander Pope:
“Let such teach who themselves excel,
And censure freely who have written well.”
There is a level at which we speak about space and time, in which our notions of matter and energy are relevant and useful. But as we all know, these reveal considerable complexity when we scratch beneath their definitional meanings, not simply in their properties and attributes, but in the very core of the notions themselves. That is something Sudarshan is always aware of.
I like to compare physics to a swimming arena with a gently sloping floor that gradually merges into the oceanic expanse. At school we barely wet our feet in the waters, then some move a little farther, and most physicists swim in regions of reasonable depth. It is given to but a few to be drawn into the depths of the sea where they explore never-before noticed niches and discover things that are not there in the shallower bodies of water. Sudarshan belongs to the class of physicists who go behind the veils of the knowledge mines, and discern therein gems and nuggets that is for all to admire and make jewelry with.
But there are also other aspects of George Sudarshan that make him unique even in this distinguished assembly. For he is a man who began speaking Malayalam when he was barely a toddler. Now, how many in this room can claim to have done that? How many in this audience even know that Malayalam is the only language with a polysyllabic name, which is also a palindrome. In the jargon of physics, writing it out is a perfectly reversible process.
Among the many great personages who have come from that region of India, known as Kerala, perhaps the greatest is Adi Shankaracharya. For more than a millennium now that most illustrious thinker has enjoyed the highest respect, reverence, and pan-Indian reputation. In the extraordinary reverence he has received and in the sheer volume of commentaries on his work, he may be called the Aquinas of the Hindu world.
And we have in our midst today another prestigious personality from Kerala. He already shines bright in the firmament of his native land, and he too, like Shankara, is claimed by India as a whole. He has surpassed even the metaphysical master, for he is part of America too, and is an eminent citizen of the realm of international science. And it is safe to will here and now that in histories yet to be written of the Kerala world, George Sudarshan’s name will stand out among those in whom his people will take personal and patriotic pride.
Sudarshan is also unique in that he was born into a Christian family, and later became a Hindu. I am told that when he was quite young, he read the Bible from cover to cover. I am not sure if this is what prompted him to embrace Hinduism. I must point out that conversion from Christianity to Hinduism is an allowed, and not a forbidden transition, but its probability is relatively small compared to the reverse processes. In any case, this has made him all the richer, culturally speaking.
Everyone here has a story to tell about how he or she was drawn to physics. You may like to know Sudarshan’s. Back in India in those days, college students stayed home, and not in dorms. When George’s older brother went to college, his physics text was left inadvertently one day on a common table. It piqued George’s curiosity, and he began to read it. A statement in that book intrigued him: ‘that the derivation of the formula for the period of a simple pendulum was beyond the scope of the book.” Being who he is, George decided that this secret should be hunted down and revealed to his full satisfaction.
Some people in their later years say regretfully, "When I was young, I always wanted to be somebody. I wish I had been more specific." George knew right from the start that he wanted to be a physicist, and there is no other honest way of becoming a physicist without being able to derive the formula for the period of a simple pendulum.
When, in 1659, Christian Huygens derived the formula for the pendulum period, little did he realize that one day that formula would entice a young lad in distant Kerala into the intricacies of physics, much less that this lad would some day carve out seven quests in fundamental physics. No causal chain in the Laplacian deterministic world could have connected the swinging pendulum to Sudarshan, the physicist. It is legitimate to ask: Was George’s looking into the book pure chance or pre-ordained? Sophocles wrote that the dice of Zeus make only lucky throws. It is an ancient truth that, in matters human, chance encounters and people’s whims are what direct the course of events in the world.
George went to Chennai as an undergraduate. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from there. Sudarshan went way beyond the prescribed physics texts for doing well in the exams. He was fascinated by books like Eddington’s The Nature of the Physical World, even as he plodded through the volumes of Arthur Haas’s Introduction to Theoretical Physics. While in Chennai, he inevitably acquired a speaking knowledge of Tamil, a sister language of Malayalam. I still enjoy conversing with him in Tamil sometimes.
After winning a first class degree from Madras University, he got a fellowship at the famous Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) which was then, and still is, the most prestigious center for physics research in India. With great vision, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of modern India, had generously supported its establishment at the recommendation of Homi Bhabha of Bhabha-Heitler scattering fame.
Young George shone brilliantly at the TIFR. He joined the team, which was then studying multiple coulomb scattering of cosmic ray particles, and he participated in devising a method for determining the mass of K-mesons. On the side, he read through and made critical comments on Von Neumann’s Foundations of Quantum Mechanics.
Robert Marshak from the University of Rochester was among the many physicists who visited TIFR during those years. He came there to give a series of lectures on Meson Physics. George took meticulous notes, and when Marshak saw these, it was love at notes’ sight. These so impressed the master of mesons that he invited the young note-taker to Rochester for doctoral work. In those days, as far as graduate schools in the United States were concerned, outsourcing meant not sending the job to India or Korea, but getting people from there right into the labs and universities here.
So, after some hurdles, Sudarshan moved from Bombay to Rochester where, as is now common knowledge, he did outstanding work. His mind is strong. But it was drawn to the weak interaction.
We have all heard the story to the effect that when Einstein explained his theory of relativity, only four people in the world understood it. Now there is a good physicist who, by this measure, is even greater than Einstein because when he explained not just relativity, but anything, only two people understood it. One was the physicist himself, and the other was George Sudarshan. This physicist also discovered that there was a direct correlation between a person’s intelligence and his ability to understand him. So he formulated a new scale, called OIQ: the IQ that is reflected in one’s capacity to decipher Okubo’s talk. It is said that on this scale also, George scored higher than anybody.
Another of George’s fellow students in Rochester in those days was Tullio Regge. No he is not a Pole, but an Italian physicist. I have heard that Tullio and George wanted to be excused from the physics lab course because they felt it would be useless. Professor Marshak said there was a very simple way of determining the validity of that proposition: He asked them to take the course, and at the end of it they could empirically verify if it had been useless or useful. I suppose if it turned out to be useless, Marshak promised not to give them any unnecessary credit for the course.
Sudarshan was energetic and creative, original and insightful. He published on a whole range of subjects, and after he became a professor, he gathered graduate students and research associates in droves. His reputation grew, his work and worth was recognized by more and more people. He became director of research institutes. As the years rolled by, his students became physicists in their own right, affiliated to institutions in many parts of this country and in many countries of the world, and occupying prestigious positions themselves.
There is another aspect of Sudarshan I would like to touch upon. Already in his school days young George was fascinated by colorful Indian epics. Aside from their story content, these grand narratives, which are part of the rich lore of India, carry meaning and message. In some of them George took at college, there were allusions to the Gita and the Upanishads, and he began to explore these classical texts of Indian thought. In his college years, he was an active member in a group where Indian philosophy was discussed, and this drew him further into the subject. His learning in these matters was enriched by extensive readings, as also in later years through exchanges with the likes of Swami Agehananda Bharati.
In the Indic world, few professors or practitioners of science have much attraction for the philosophies of the tradition, let alone its theologies. By and large, Indian physicists are content and creative in their various technical fields, and like specialists elsewhere, they would rather not venture into metaphysical domains where sound bites often matter more than substance. Leaving aside the complexities of Sanskrit grammar, to most practitioners of the hard sciences, such works belong to a different age. Some have even argued that too much affiliation to past visions of the world could restrain our march into the future. That is why modern scientists, especially in their problem-solving moods and modes, consciously keep away from philosophical and religious matters.
Yet, though religion is something that involves rites and rituals, prayers and worship, devotional songs and festivals, all of which have little to do with science, many good scientists in the Hindu world do go to temples and do their prayers and periodic penitence, sing heart-felt bhajans and chant mantras. But generally, they keep all these exercises separate from their scientific commitments.
Unlike in the Western cultural matrix where religion and science are in a state of perennial tension, like a couple on the verge of divorce, arguing whether to live or not to live together, in the Hindu world, by and large, science and religion cohabit, to borrow Gould’s phrase, as two as Non-Overlapping Magisteria.
From the Hindu perspective, beneath all the cacophony in the human world, and beyond the turmoil even in the stellar realms, there is an underlying cosmic harmony: a peace that transcends the conflicts and contradictions that mark the world of experience. This serene and silent world order or rita, as it is called, is revealed to the religious aspirant as the spiritual undercurrent that weaves the world of reality, and it is revealed to the physicist as the laws of nature. Who can touch or feel gravitation or the electro-weak principle, or the symmetry groups that orchestrate the song and dance of the universe?
Aside from such spiritual, poetic, and experiential reflections, there is much in classical Indian thought that is analytical, logical, interesting and insightful also. In epistemological subtleties, some classical Indian thinkers show extraordinary keenness. That is why Sudarshan, the physicist who is also a reflective thinker, delves into Indian spirituality and appreciates its relevance to culture in the modern world. He is one of the very few Indian scientists I know of who has attended, participated in, and contributed to Indian philosophical conferences as well. Sudarshan’s public lectures on science and society are replete with quotes from and allusions to Sanskrit and Malayalam literature. For his knowledge and wisdom in these matters he was honored a couple of years ago with a prestigious recognition from the International Vedanta Conference.
Because of all this, he was invited into the inner circles of some nationally and internationally known god-men. He gracefully accepted their invitations, and his name added prestige to their organizations.
With all that, it is important to remember that Sudarshan is faithfully wedded to the physicist’s framework. Just as he can recognize cracks in the foundations of the scientific worldview, unlike some enthusiasts, he can also distinguish metaphysics and meaning from mathematics, and metaphor from measurable scientific truths. He once flew to Switzerland to observe attempts at mantra-induced levitation, which is based on the hypothesis that anti-gravity fields come into play at the bottom of squatters in meditation. But he declared that there was little empirical evidence of this even in the heights of the Swiss Alps where the acceleration due to gravity has smaller values. He is also cautious and critical when people link S-matrix to sutras in Buddhism or loftily write on quantum leaps and the field theory of consciousness.
Sudarshan’s knowledge, skills, and scientific leadership have been in demand in India, in the United States, and elsewhere, too. He has received several local, national, and international honors, such as honoris causa from many universities, First Prize for Third World Scientists, and the Padma Bhushan, the highest honor—the equivalent of the knighthood, one might say— bestowed by the Government of India.
Back in India, we call the celebration of the 75th year Platinum Jubilee. For this special joyful occasion when so many of his friends, well-wishers, and peers have gathered here to celebrate his work and honor him, as a tribute to George Sudarshan I have prepared a Power-point presentation reviewing his life and achievements.
In the Tamil tradition, there is a grand celebration when a person reaches the age of 83. Why 83? Because when you are 83 years old, there have been a thousand full moons since your birth. Dear George, we hope to see you celebrate that landmark, too.
Here is a poem written by V. V. Raman for this occasion:
We've come here on this happy day
For lots of talks and fun
To honor in a special way
Our friend George Sudarshan.
Who's this man, some may ask
Whom we honor thus?
Well, my friends, it‘s now my task
To tell you why this fuss.
(September 16, 1931–May 13, 2018)
Ennackal Chandy George Sudarshan was born September 16, 1931 in Pallam, Kerala. A lifelong proud Malayalee, he studied at CMS College in Kottayam, Madras Christian College (B. Sc with Honors and Masters), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and the University of Rochester (PhD).
A scientist of international repute, his numerous contributions to theoretical physics include the V-A Weak Interaction unification, symmetry groups in quantum field theory, the Sudarshan p representation, open quantum mechanical systems, superluminal motion, spin and statistics, quantum optical coherence, quantum Zeno effect, and the infamous tachyon, the particle that moves faster than the speed of light. He wrote more than 400 scientific papers as well as 10 books on a variety of topics including Classical Dynamics, Quantum Optics, and Philosophy.
A lover of education, learning, and teaching, he worked at the University of Rochester, Harvard, Syracuse, the Indian Institute of Science, the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, and the University of Texas where he was a professor and theoretician for 47 years. His honors including degrees, academies, and major awards are far too numerous to list but include the Padma Vibhusan (India's 2nd highest award), the initial Third World Academy of Sciences award in Physics, and the ICTP Dirac Medal and a record nine nominations for the Nobel Prize in Physics.
A vedantin and great fan of classical Indian music, he enjoyed jokes, puns, conversation, friends, food, martinis, but most of all his family. He was a devoted husband to Bhamathi, father to Alexander, Arvind, and Ashok, and grandfather to Nicholas, Lochlan, Duncan, Gideon, Ellen, and Claire.
Doctorate genealogy created by Cesar Rodriguez
Physics Today 72, 4, 63 (2019); https://doi.org/10.1063/PT.3.4190
Ennackal Chandy George Sudarshan, a titan of 20th-century theoretical physics who made seminal contributions to several fields, passed away in Austin, Texas, on 13 May 2018. His vector−axial vector (V−A) theory of the weak interaction and optical equivalence theorem sparked revolutions in high-energy physics and quantum optics.
George was born on 16 September 1931 in Pallam, India. After completing a BSc from Madras Christian College in 1951 and an MA from the University of Madras in 1952, he joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, where he worked on cosmic-ray showers with Homi Bhabha. He also became the scribe for quantum mechanics lecturer Paul Dirac and took excellent notes for him. He was recruited by Robert Marshak of the University of Rochester as a doctoral student and within two years formulated the V−A theory of the weak interaction.
After receiving his PhD in 1958, George did a brief stint as Julian Schwinger’s research fellow at Harvard University before returning to Rochester, where he developed the optical equivalence theorem. He then worked at the University of Bern and Syracuse University before joining the University of Texas at Austin in 1969. He also served as the director of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai, India, from 1984 to 1991.
In the mid 1950s, the discovery of parity violation demanded a consistent theory of the weak force. George’s comprehensive analysis of all weak-decay data convinced him that if there was a universal Fermi interaction, with parity violation built in, it had to include the axial-vector interaction, since charged pion decay could be viewed as beta decay of a nucleus with zero atomic mass. He came to the far-reaching conclusion that a V−A structure of weak interaction could explain all but four crucial experimental results. When researchers repeated the experiments, they yielded the results his theory predicted. That discovery was crucial to the later unification of the weak and electromagnetic interactions by Steven Weinberg, Abdus Salam, and Sheldon Glashow.
George’s work with Marshak, Susumu Okubo, Weinberg, and others on weak interactions led to the successful application of final-state interactions to the decay of lambda hyperons and contained the general method for solving singular integral equations. With Marshak and Okubo, George discovered the general theorem on sum rules with symmetry breaking and the first application of symmetry groups to obtain sum rules. George also helped introduce other applications of group-theoretic methods that led to the relations between the magnetic moments of sigma particles and the transition moments of sigma and lambda particles.
The classical and semiclassical theories of optical field coherence had been developed by Emil Wolf and Leonard Mandel during the 1950s and 1960s. Roy Glauber proposed in February 1963 a quantum model for optical coherence, which involved normally ordered quantum correlation functions.
George’s diagonal representation of the density operator in terms of coherent states appeared in April 1963. He showed that the coherent states’ overcompleteness could be used to represent every density operator in the diagonal form and that a general quantum correlation function could be computed in a simple way once it was re-expressed in normally ordered form. Known as the optical equivalence theorem, George’s result showed how quantum optical correlations could be expressed in terms of a quasi-probability density and in a manner analogous to classical correlations. The novel and crucial feature was that the quasi-probability density could take on negative values, which is the signature of an optical field’s quantum nature, as seen in the anti-Hanbury Brown–Twiss effect and photon antibunching.
With Baidyanath Misra, George predicted the quantum Zeno effect, so named because the decay of an unstable quantum state, measured sufficiently frequently, is hindered. His work with Piravonu Mathews and Jayaseetha Rau generalizing the classical stochastic processes to the quantum domain was the precursor to his later work on the development of quantum correlations between parts of a large system. That led to the theory of stochastic semigroups from which emerged the Gorini-Kossakowski-Sudarshan equation that forms the basis for the study of large open systems. George provided a nonrelativistic proof of the spin-statistics theorem by imposing appropriate restrictions on the kinematic part of the Lagrangian of a field theory derivable from a Weiss–Schwinger type of principle of least action.
One of George’s most famous papers, written with Vijay Deshpande and Olexa-Myron Bilaniuk, was on faster-than-light particles, later named tachyons, which caught the imagination of a generation of physicists and science fiction writers. George was always ready to branch out into new fields, and as a natural progression of his studies on open systems and dynamical maps, he was analyzing problems in quantum tomography and quantum computing during his last years.
George received the first physics prize from the World Academy of Sciences in 1985. Among his other awards were India’s second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2007 and the Dirac Medal from the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in 2010.
Gentle, witty, humorous, and kind, George touched everyone with his generosity and warmth.
Although George Sudarshan spent most of his scientiﬁc career at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin, USA), he was already an established and successful scientist with several enviable achievements to his credit before coming to Texas. In addition, what was it about Texas that would lure him from a good situation in Syracuse?
George before Texas
It started with his completing undergraduate studies at CMS College in Kottayam, Kerala and the afﬁliated Madras Christian College (MCC), in Tambaram in Tamil Nadu, India, with a Bachelor of Arts with Honors. MCC is considered to be one of the most prestigious colleges in India. He, then, attended the University of Madras for his graduate studies taking only one year to earn his Master of Arts degree. In 1952, he moved to the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai to continue his graduate studies serving as a Research Assistant in a group studying the applications of the use of photographic techniques for the analysis of nuclear and elementary particle phenomena. Working with S. Biswas and B. Peters, he developed the variable cell length constant sagitta method for the determination of masses of charged particles undergoing multiple scattering in nuclear emulsions. He also developed the use of high-order differences to deal with distorted emulsions1.
The name he used at the time was his given name of Ennackal Chandy George or E. C. George. In scientific works published in the years following this period and his conversion to Hinduism, he used E. C. George Sudarshan where Sudarshan was chosen by him and is best translated as ‘good looking’.
Robert E. Marshak, a leading theorist at Rochester University, USA, was travelling in India and visited TIFR and discovered Sudarshan. He was very impressed with Sudarshan and lured him to Rochester to complete a Ph D.
Arriving at Rochester in 1955, Sudarshan was immediately immersed into the excitement of fundamental theoretical physics at the highest level while working among world-leading physicists. This was also a when the experimentalists worldwide were discovering a wealth of newly identiﬁed particles. He was quickly engaged in the give-and-take of discovery in particle physics. It was quickly evident that there had to be some organizing principle to the pattern of the newly observed particles. He was among the first to realize that understanding patterns of the higher internal symmetries and their breaking was the key. With Okubo, Marshak and Weinberg, he made the first application of broken symmetries in particle physics by analyzing the isotopic spin structure of the electromagnetic masses and moments. He followed these with work on unitary symmetry.
For his graduate research project, Marshak assigned to him the task of untangling the very mixed situation of the understanding of the weak interactions. The four—fermion interaction model of weak decay articulated by Fermi offered many possibilities, too many and contradictory. By a comprehensive and detailed analysis of all the weak decay data, Sudarshan came to the far-reaching conclusion that a V—A structure was consistent with all but four of the experiments. This interaction was also the first time a chiral interaction favouring left-handed particles was articulated and parity, space inversion symmetry, was violated. Within a year, the four inconsistent experiments were repeated and found to be in agreement with Sudarshan’ s predictions.
The V — A parity violating form for the structure of the weak interactions was the first thread in the effort to unify the weak and electromagnetic interactions in what is now called the Standard Model. This was the extension by Marshak and Sudarshan, as well as Feynman and Gell-Mann of the four-fermion model of Enrico Fermi’s theory of weak interactions. The saga of priority is best summarized by Feynman: ‘So I would like to say where we stand in our theories of weak interactions. We have a conventional theory of weak interactions invented by Marshak and Sudarshan, published by Feynman and Gell-Mann, and completed by Cabibbo 3.
This work on V—A has to be considered their most impressive Ph D dissertation ever (note 1).
With the completion of his PhD at Rochester in two years, and the publication and extension of the V—A theory of weak interactions, he took up residency as a Corporate Fellow at Harvard University from 1957 to 1959. During that period, he extended his work on weak interactions, parity violation and chiral invariance4 and began his work on inconsistency with the quantization of high spin ﬁelds 5 and development of what is now called the Deser—Gilbert—Sudarshan representation of the vertex functions and other ﬁeld theoretic amplitudes 6.
In 1959, Sudarshan returned to Rochester as a faculty member. He immersed himself in the foundations of physics, in particular, the development of a formalism for classical dynamics to facilitate the understanding of quantum mechanical formulations of dynamics and the development of a relativistic quantum ﬁeld theory. This work on classical dynamics was later articulated in his book with N. Mukunda7, written after he had moved to Texas. During these studies, he developed, with D. Currie and T. Jordan, the well—known ‘no-go’ theorems for interacting Hamiltonian particle theories in which he showed, by means of the Lie algebra formulation of classical dynamics, that Hamiltonian theories could not be manifestly Lorentz invariant and covariant and have interactions8.
At Rochester, he expanded his interests to include quantum; optics and developed the ‘optical equivalence theorem’. This result provides an experimentally transparent uniﬁcation of the classical and quantum descriptions of electromagnetic phenomena, especially those dealing with lasers operating in the region of visible and near- visible light 9. This work is summarized in his book with J. Klaude 10.
Sudarshan spent the period l963—l964 as a Guest Professor at the University of Bern, Switzerland and at Brandeis University, USA. During that time, his interests expanded to cover several new and important areas of physics research. Most important has been the work on quantum theories with indeﬁnite metric as a tool in con- structing ﬁnite quantum ﬁeld theories and their physical interpretation“ .
In 1964, he joined the faculty of Syracuse University, USA as Professor and Director of the Research Program in Elementary Particles. It was a time when the Department of Physics at Syracuse was growing, a new building was in the planning stages, and that was his opportunity to ‘assemble a group‘ of active physicists with related research interests. There were about ten people, one other faculty appointment, A. P, Balachandran, and four post- docs and ﬁve senior graduate students. Research funding was from the Atomic Energy Commission, (AEC) (note 2). Research initiated in Rochester continued. Interests in quantum optics and symmetries were extended and, with Balachandran, Sudarshan extended his study of the Poincare and the Galilei groups and the physical interpretation of their unphysical representations; this led to his interest in tachyons. With 0. M.‘ P. Bilaniuk and V. K. Deshpande, he reworked his original multiply rejected paper”. This paper caused quite a stir among the physics community.
He published a book with Marshak on elementary particle physics.13 The infinities of standard quantum ﬁeld theory present interesting interpretation problems. This led to Sudarshan’s interests in ﬁnite quantum electrodynamics which utilized an indeﬁnite metric and particles of ﬁnite mass14. The origins of the use of non-invariance groups and dynamical symmetries were initiated15. He extended his work on modern optics16. With Mukunda and J. G. Kuriyan, he invented the master analytic representation method for constructing all the unitary representations of many non- compact groups15. Work on the geometric structure of the Dirac bracket in classical mechanics was an indication of Sudarshan’s range of interests.17
Texas before George
During the early 1950s, the United States was the dominant world power and was regarded as the security needed to stem the threat of a growth of communism. The successful launch of Sputnik 1 by USSR on 4 October 1957, and the failure of the US to counter with a successful launch raised serious concerns in the western countries but particularly in the US. This initiated a signiﬁcant growth in the support of science research and education in the US. Prior to this, strong science, particularly basic university—based physics research, was concentrated on the east and west coasts and the Chicago7 area. The National Science Foundation initiated a major grant programme to build strong university research programmes, called Regional Development Grants, and Texas was a successful grantee. These grants were unusual in that they included capital expenditure for such items as buildings. The grant paid for two—thirds of the current physics building (note 3). It also included support for a new category of transitional faculty titled Faculty Associates who, after two years of research and some teaching, would become Assistant Professors’ on a tenure- track line.
Prior to the award of the Regional Development Grant, the university and the Physics Department (note 4) were not ranked by any ranking organizations. In fact, the University had only two ranked program4 linguistics and botany. As a part of the negotiations for the grant, the University committed to forming a separate Astronomy Department and expanded the size of the Physics Department. The Physics Department approximately doubled in size to over 45 faculty and, with the maturity of the Faculty Associates to Assistant Professors, to over 50 faculty—equivalent positions.
Another feature of the operations at UT at Austin at that time was a special funding source titled ‘Available Fund’. This was the income from the sale of oil from University land in west Texas and was allocated to support academic excellence. This if was accomplished through the establishment of research units called Centers. As a part of the negotiations for the Regional Development Grant, there was a commitment to add several Centers in the sciences. In particular, there were Centers for Particle Theory, Relativity, Experimental Plasma Physics, and Statistical Mechanics.
George at Texas
George Sudarshan joined the faculty of UT at Austin as a Professor of Physics and Co-Director (note 5) of the Center for Particle Theory. The Center was a budgeted line item which at the time of his joining had three senior faculty and several Faculty Associates. George brought his group from Syracuse along with funding from the AEC.
George completed his work on underlying structure of classical mechanics and articulated the results of these studies in a book written with Mukunda7. He also began extending earlier work on indeﬁnite metric ﬁeld theorie18 and applying the work to realistic ﬁeld theory models19. Using results of his earlier work on the Poincare group working with Mukunda, he developed a working scheme for constrained world lines in relativistic mechanics20.
His deep understanding of the Poincare’ group also allowed him to do the most complete study on the possibility of signals or particles travelling at speeds higher than the speed of light. There are subtle questions related to the structure of a causal space—time and the quantum basis for our understanding of light. He extended his earlier studies21 to ultimately promote the most comprehensive understanding of these objects22.
One of the primary signatures of George’s work has always been the application of new ideas used in particle theory and applying them to classical problems in physics23 or putting sophisticated mathematics to use in particle theory24. In addition, he would solve classical mathematical problems or difﬁcult philosophical ones with his powerful physical intuition25.
George had an abiding interest in the relation of particle spin and particle interchange symmetry in multi-particle systems and this continued at Texas. Bose had proposed Bose statistics for photons; Fermi and Dirac had shown that the Pauli exclusion principle could be translated into the statistics obeyed by spin l/2 particles. The history of ideas up to and including Pauli’s work is systematically presented in a monograph ‘Pauli and the Spin-Statistics Theorem’ by Duck and Sudarshan26.
That the symmetry of the many—particle wave functions could be Bose, Fermi, or more general statistics was shown to depend on the connectivity of the conﬁguration space. Sudarshan with Tom Imbo studied this question in a series of papers but these considerations did not yield the connection between spin and statistics25.
For quantum ﬁeld theory, Pauli’s proof depended on invoking relativistic invariance; but the major impact of particle statistics is in the non-relativistic domain such as atomic structure, nuclear structure, theory of metals, theory of superconductivity and the theory of phonons. Sudarshan showed that this connection can be obtained from the symmetry of scalars bilinear in a ﬁeld. He also showed that this product is symmetric for integer spin and antisymmetric for half—integer spins. These results were presented in his paper in the Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Sciences and subsequent publications, including the monograph by Duck and Sudarshan, and in a paper with A. Shaji26.
Being the original discoverer of the Optical Equivalence Theorem 9, Sudarshan was the best person to extend the understanding of how the light of our perception emerges from the photons of Planck. With many collaborators, he developed a comprehensive explanation of partial coherence, radiative transfer and nonlinear coherent states 27. His work in this area was monumental but again there was inadequate recognition (note 6).
The saying that a watched pot never boils is more than an admonition in quantum system. Careful analysis of the decaying process in quantum mechanics revealed three timescales for decay; the very short or Zeno, middle range or exponential and the very long or Khalﬁn. Zeno timescale had never been predicted or observe27. Systematic checking on an unstable atomic system veriﬁed the effect28.
The Zeno effect on decay lifetimes is part of the more general problem of quantum measurement. George’s work on these problems goes back to his work at TIFR on the interpretation of nuclear tracks in photo-sensitive emulsions and threads through the Rochester and Syracuse years11 but reaches a peak in Texas3 when it was identiﬁed as a general problem of our understanding oi the quantum measurement.
The problem has also taken on signiﬁcance because of the growing importance of quantum information processes. Like the chemist with his pressure bath of the atmosphere, the modern computer with qubit elements will always have to operate in a background of classical objects29. As always seems to be the case with George, he was way ahead of his times, or at least abreast of the most subtle issues.
George’s scientiﬁc contributions were recognized by many institutions — of the order of seven Honoris Cause Ph Ds from leading universities around the world. He also accumulated more than ten special honours from scientific institutions. His two most cherished of these awards are the Padma Bhushan (Order of the Lotus) presented by the President of India in 1976 and the Dirac Medal presented by the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Trieste Italy, in 2010. The latter was shared with Nicola Cabibbo for their work on weak interactions. The Dirac Medal had special signiﬁcance for two reasons. He held Dirac in his highest esteem of modern theoretical physicists. There is also an interesting twist to the Dirac Prize; it is considered by most physicists as the prize for people who should have gotten the Nobel Prize but were skipped over. It seems that George should have been the first per- son to receive two Dirac Medals.
George’s students and postdocs
Besides the production of new knowledge, one of the main roles for an academic scientist is the development of a cadre of effective young scientists to carry the torch of scientiﬁc inquiry forward. George is likely to be among the most successful of the academic theoretical physicists in his generation in this process. The number of young postdocs and students he has worked with comes. to more than 70 and more than 80% of them are serving as faculty at major universities or research laboratories in the US and abroad.
During his long successful career in research, George produced an immense body of published results; he has more than 450 formally published papers. The references given below are for the use of readers interested in more detailed information about the issues discussed in the section ‘George’s Science’.
Another striking feature of his publications is the number of co-authors on his papers. Once out of Rochester, the pattern was George and a small group of younger physicists, postdocs and students. This is especially apparent even in the selected list of publications as given below but especially so if the conference and review presentations and books are removed from the list.
George also wrote seven textbooks30; listed as texts, these are more like monographs. They carry all the usual approach to subject matter suitable in an undergraduate or graduate classroom, but there is also a coherent exposition of material that is usually found in a research paper.
1. Older textbooks mention that there are four fundamental forces: the electromagnetic characterized by light, .-weak characterized by natural radioactivity, gravity, and strong characterized by nuclear stability. Now there are only three: the standard model combining the ﬁrst two, gravity, and the strong force now identiﬁed as quantum chromodynamics.
2. Now called the Department of Energy.
3. The two—thirds was the result of the fact that the grant could not support the construction of classrooms, only research supporting facilities, including faculty offices.
4. There was not an Astronomy Department. Two members of the Physics Department taught the Astronomy classes. This was a P’ particular anomaly since the University owned an observatory in the Davis Mountains. It was managed and operated by the University of Chicago.
5. Yuval Neéman was the other Co-Director. He came to Texas the year before Sudarshan. He was only half time at Texas and his other half was at Tel Aviv University in Israel.
6. Roy Glauber of Harvard University was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2005 for his work in this ﬁeld.
George Sudarshan Photo Album
|Sudarshan UT 75th Birthday Reception Photo Album (2006)|