Benjamin W. Lee

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Benjamin Whisoh Lee
Benjamin W. Lee
donated by third elder brother, Cheol-eung
Born (1935-01-01)January 1, 1935
Seoul, Colonial Korea
Died June 16, 1977(1977-06-16) (aged 42)
Kewanee, Illinois, United States
Residence Glen Ellyn, Illinois, United States
Nationality Korea under Japanese rule (1935–1945)
South Korean (1945–1968)
American (1968–1977)
Citizenship United States
Alma mater Kyunggi High School
Miami University
University of Pittsburgh
University of Pennsylvania
Known for Weak interaction
Gauge theory
Lee-Weinberg bound
Spouse(s) Marianne Mun Ching Sim
Awards Order of Camellia
(Order of Civil Merit of South Korea)
Scientific career
Fields Quantum field theory
Particle physics
Theoretical physics
Institutions University of Pennsylvania
Institute for Advanced Study
Stony Brook University
University of Chicago
Doctoral advisor Abraham Klein
Notable students Burt Ovrut
Influenced Abdus Salam
Gerard 't Hooft
Korean name
Revised Romanization I Hwiso
McCune–Reischauer I Hwiso
Signature of Benjamin W. Lee
Biography of Benjamin W. Lee by JooSang Kang

Benjamin Whisoh Lee (Hangul이휘소; January 1, 1935 – June 16, 1977) or Ben Lee, was a Korean-born American theoretical physicist. His work in theoretical particle physics exerted great influence on the development of the standard model in the late 20th century, especially on the renormalization of the electro-weak model and gauge theory.


Lee was born in Yongsan, Seoul. Both his parents were trained as doctors. Whisoh was the eldest of four siblings. His mother was the wage winner of the household, who was initially employed as a doctor at a hospital and later opened her own practice specializing in pediatrics and obstetrics/gynaecology.[1] Lee took the entrance exam for Kyunggi Middle School and was accepted. He was an excellent pupil. The Korean War broke out on his 4th year. Lee's family evacuated to the Busan Perimeter and Whisoh continued his schooling there. One year before graduating Kyunggi High School, he entered the department of chemical engineering at Seoul National University at the top of his class. While in college he emigrated to the United States through a scholarship program enabled by the association of spouses of the military officers who participated in the Korean War.[1] Lee received his Bachelor of Science degree at Miami University (1956), Master of Science at the University of Pittsburgh (1958), and Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania (1961). Lee worked at Institute for Advanced Study and was a professor of physics at University of Pennsylvania, SUNY at Stony Brook, University of Chicago, and head of the theoretical physics department at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1976.[2] On June 16, 1977, he was killed in a car accident not far from Kewanee, Illinois (on the Interstate 80).[3] Lee was regarded by his peers as a world-class elementary particle physicist at the time of his sudden death.[4][5][6][7] He studied gauge theory and weak interactions.


Gauge theory[edit]

In 1964, Lee published an article about spontaneous symmetry breaking with his advisor Abraham Klein and contributed to the appearance of Higgs mechanism.[8] He is often credited with the naming of the Higgs boson and Higgs mechanism.[9][10][11] And in 1969, he succeeded individually the renormalization of the spontaneously breaking global gauge symmetry model.[12] In the mean time, Dutch graduate student Gerardus 't Hooft was working in the case of local gauge symmetry breaking in the Yang–Mills theory using the Higgs mechanism. He met Lee and Symanzik at the Cargèse Summer School and consulted them on his work and got an insight.[13][14] He finally succeeded in the renormalization of non-abelian gauge theory and won the Nobel Prize later for this work.[15][16] David Politzer said in his 2004 Nobel Lecture that the particle physicists community at that time learned all from Lee who actually combined insights from his own work and from Russian physicists' work and encouraged 't Hooft's paper.[17]

Charm quark[edit]

Glashow, Maiani and Iliopoulos predicted charm quarks to match the experimental results. Lee wrote an article with Gaillard and Rosner [18] and predicted the mass of the charm quarks by calculating the quantities which correspond to the mixing and decay of K meson.


In 1977, Lee and Weinberg wrote an article about the lower bound on heavy neutrino mass.[19] In this paper, they revealed that if the heavy and stable particles in the early universe which can only be transferred into other particles through the pair annihilation remain as relics after the universe's expansion, then the strength of the interaction should be bigger than 2 GeV. This calculation can be applied to find the amount of the dark matter. This bound is called the Lee-Weinberg bound.

Controversy over death[edit]

A South Korean fictional novel allegedly based on Lee's death was published in 1993, which presumably suggested that Lee tried to help South Korea's dictatorship develop nuclear weapons, and implied that the U.S.' Central Intelligence Agency had some connection to his death. In actuality, he vigorously opposed the autocratic system of South Korea at that time and he canceled every program he designed for South Korean graduate education about particle physics in opposition to that government.[1] According to a Fermilab memoriam, Lee died in a car accident on Illinois highway I-80 in 1977, at age 42. A semi-trailer crossed the highway divide and collided with his car.



Selected papers[edit]


  1. ^ a b c JooSang Kang (2007). 이휘소평전 [Lee Whiso : a critical biography] (in Korean). LUX Media. ISBN 89-89822-70-X. 
  2. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter L" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Dr. Benjamin Lee, 42, of Fermilab; Noted Physicist Was Crash Victim". The New York Times. 18 June 1977. 
  4. ^ Chris Quigg & Steven Weinberg (Sep 1977). "Benjamin W. Lee". Physics Today. 30 (9): 76. Bibcode:1977PhT....30i..76Q. doi:10.1063/1.3037723. 
  5. ^ "In Memoriam Benjamin W. Lee". Fermilab. 1977. 
  6. ^ "Ben Lee Memorial International Conference at Fermi Lab". 1977. 
  7. ^ James Riordon. "PRL Top Ten: #1 A Model of Leptons (an APS News interview with Steven Weinberg)". American Physical Society. 
  8. ^ A. Klein & B.W. Lee (1964). "Does Spontaneous Breakdown of Symmetry Imply Zero-Mass Particles?". Physical Review Letters. 12: 266. Bibcode:1964PhRvL..12..266K. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.12.266. 
  9. ^ "Rochester's Hagen Sakurai Prize Announcement" (Press release). University of Rochester. 2010. Archived from the original on 2008-04-16. 
  10. ^ C.R. Hagen Sakurai Prize Talk (YouTube). 2010. 
  11. ^ Ian Sample (29 May 2009), "Anything but the God particle", Guardian 
  12. ^ Benjamin W. Lee (1969). "Renormalization of the σ-model". Nuclear Physics B. 9 (5): 649–672. Bibcode:1969NuPhB...9..649L. doi:10.1016/0550-3213(69)90065-0. 
  13. ^ Gerardus 't Hooft (1999). "Autobiography". 
  14. ^ Soo-Jong Rey (December 1999). 1999년 노벨 물리학상에 즈음하여: 토프트, 벨트만, 이휘소, 그리고 입자 물리학의 미래 [At the time of the Nobel Prize in Physics 1999: 't Hooft, Veltman, Ben Lee and the future of particle physics] (in Korean). 물리학과 첨단기술. 
  15. ^ G. 't Hooft (1971). "Renormalizable Lagrangians for massive Yang-Mills fields". Nuclear Physics B. 35 (1): 167–188. Bibcode:1971NuPhB..35..167T. doi:10.1016/0550-3213(71)90139-8. 
  16. ^ "Nobel '99 A Strong Vote for Electroweak Theory". Fermi News. 1999-12-17. 
  17. ^ David Politzer (2004). "The Dilemma of Attribution". 
  18. ^ Gaillard, M. K.; Lee, B. W. & Rosner, J. L. (1975). "Search for charm". Rev. Mod. Phys. 47: 277–310. Bibcode:1975RvMP...47..277G. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.47.277. 
  19. ^ Lee B.W.; Weinberg S. (1977). "Cosmological Lower Bound on Heavy-Neutrino Masses". Physical Review Letters. 39: 165. Bibcode:1977PhRvL..39..165L. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.39.165. 

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