H. Pierre Noyes

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H. Pierre Noyes
Henry Pierre Noyes

(1923-12-10)December 10, 1923
DiedSeptember 30, 2016(2016-09-30) (aged 92)
Stanford, United States
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materHarvard University, University of California, Berkeley
Known forBit-string physics
Spouse(s)Mary Noyes
Scientific career
FieldsTheoretical physics
InstitutionsStanford University, SLAC
Doctoral advisorRobert Serber
Other academic advisorsGeoffrey Chew

H. Pierre Noyes (December 10, 1923[1] – September 30, 2016) was an American theoretical physicist. He was a member of the faculty at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University since 1962.[2] Noyes specialized in several areas of research, including the relativistic few-body problem in nuclear and particle physics; foundations of physics; combinatorial hierarchy; and bit-string physics: a discrete model for masses, coupling constants, and cosmology from first principles.[2][3]


H. Pierre Noyes was born in 1923 in Paris, France to the American chemist William Albert Noyes Sr. and Katherine Macy, daughter of Jesse Macy. His older half-brothers were W. Albert Noyes Jr. and Richard Macy Noyes who both became chemists.


Noyes received his baccalaureate degree in physics (magna cum laude) in 1943 from Harvard University.[2] One of his roommates during this time was Thomas Kuhn, author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Before moving on to doctoral studies, Noyes spent a year at the Antenna Group at the MIT Radiation Laboratory and served in the US Navy for two years as an Aviation Electronics Technician Mate.[4]

Noyes earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950[2] doing research under the direction of Robert Serber with Geoffrey Chew as his advisor. Noyes’ first doctoral problem was pion-pion scattering, followed by a second problem: meson production from proton-deuteron decay. His work under Chew was among the early applications of S-matrix theory.[4]

After earning his Ph.D., Noyes spent a postdoctoral year on a Fulbright scholarship at the University of Birmingham, England,[2] under the direction of Rudolf Peierls.[4]


Noyes’ career included several academic and research positions. He first worked as a post-doctoral fellow and then as assistant professor of Physics at the University of Rochester (1952–5).[2] During that time, he compiled and edited the Proceedings of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Rochester Conferences on High Energy Physics. During the summers of those years, he worked at Project Matterhorn at Princeton, researching thermonuclear weapons (1952) and at the Brookhaven National Laboratory (1953). During the summer of 1954, he worked on calculating the binding energy of the triton using a particular non-relativistic, quantum mechanical potential model fitted to the low energy nucleon-nucleon parameters at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California.[4]

In 1955, Noyes joined the Theoretical Division of what was to become the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. From 1956 to 1962, he served there as group leader of the General Research Group,[2] under co-founder and director Edward Teller. During that time, he also served as co-chair of the design-review pre-mortem committee for the devices tested on Christmas Island in 1962 during Operation Dominic I, including the UGM-27 Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile and Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) warhead prototypes.[4]

During a sabbatical from his work at Lawrence Livermore in 1957 and 1958, Noyes was Leverhulme Trust Lecturer in the Experimental Physics Department of the University of Liverpool. He also worked as a consultant to General Atomics under Freeman Dyson and Ted Taylor for Project Orion[2] (a nuclear explosion propelled space ship) from 1958 to 1961 at the invitation of Prof. Dyson.[4]

In 1961, Noyes served as AVCO visiting professor at Cornell University.[2]

Starting in 1962, he worked at SLAC as head of theoretical physics until he was replaced by Sidney Drell (who combined that responsibility with being Deputy Director of SLAC). He progressed from associate professor from 1962 through 1967 to professor (at SLAC, 1967–2002) and was awarded emeritus status in that rank on May 1, 2000.[2] He collaborated with Richard Shoup at the Boundary Institute.[5]

Noyes served as the Associate Editor of the Annual Review of Nuclear Science from 1962 until 1977.[6] In 1979 he received an Alexander von Humboldt U.S. Senior Scientist Award, primarily to continue his theoretical work on the quantum mechanical three-body problem for strongly interacting particles. In that same year he joined with John Amson, Ted Bastin, Clive W. Kilmister and A. Frederick Parker-Rhodes to found the Alternative Natural Philosophy Association (ANPA), and was president of that organization until 1987.[4][7][1]


In his early career, Noyes primarily focused on nuclear forces from an elementary particle point of view. In Inward Bound, Abraham Pais had commented, correctly, that no one's work along this line lead to any fundamental new insights into elementary particle theory. Noyes’ research into this area confirmed that the phenomenological analysis of nucleon-nucleon and pion-nucleon scattering, supplemented by an S-matrix based dispersion theory, shows that quantum field theory is roughly correct for two-particle scattering, and in some cases can be connected to the non-relativistic models used in nuclear physics. The research did not, however, lead to any unique, quantitative model of the strong interactions.[4]

After leaving Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, he started working on the quantum mechanical three-body problem developed by Ludvig Faddeev, Alt, Grassberger, and Sandhas by reformulating it in the relativistic domain. In 1969, he concluded that any nonreletivistic quantum mechanical three-body problem using strictly finite range forces between the pairs necessarily implies a non-local interaction in any three body system, which would extend to indefinitely large distances. A specific example of this is the fact that three identical particles with scattering lengths between the pairs that tend toward infinity, will support an indefinitely large number of three body bound states with their radii increasing as the square of that number, as was shown independently by Vitaly Efimov in a specific model.[4]

Driven by this success, an interest in John Stewart Bell’s work, and Thomas Phipps’ construction of a covering theory for both classical and quantum mechanics, Noyes was inspired to return his attention to the foundations of quantum mechanics. Around this time (1972-3), he heard a report from Ted Bastin on his combinatorial hierarchy work and met with Bastin and his collaborators: J. C. Amson, C. W. Kilmister, and A. F. Parker Rhodes. The research conducted during this interaction resulted in the development of many papers on finite and discrete physics and cosmology called bit-string physics.[8] This work became Noyes’ focus for much of the rest of the century. His contributions to the new field include:[4]

  • He showed that, thanks to a 1952 paper by Freeman Dyson, the integer value

of given by the first three levels of the combinatorial hierarchy could be given physical interpretation as the maximum number of electron-positron pairs which could be discussed within a radius of , using renormalized quantum electrodynamics. Further, the rest energy of this system could then suggest that the breakdown of quantum electrodynamics found by Dyson might be due to the strong interactions mediated by pions. The same argument extended to the fourth level suggested that the closure of the scheme at the fourth level, characterized by could be understood as the formation of a black hole with the Planck mass by that number of baryons of protonic mass concentrated within Noyes, however, remained profoundly skeptical of these results until a decade later when David McGoveran showed that the scheme not only allowed one to derive the Sommerfeld-Dirac formula for the fine structure spectrum of hydrogen and then to correct the 137 approximation by correctly calculating the next four significant figures in the inverse fine-structure constant in agreement with experiment, but also to correct the value for Newton's gravitational constant and compute several other elementary particle coupling constants and mass ratios.

  • Work with Michael Manthey led to a cosmological model which predicted long ago that there was not enough matter to close the universe and that the ratio of dark matter to baryonic matter is 12.7. A consistent scheme developed by Ed Jones[9] (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories) also predicted a positive cosmological constant of the magnitude that was observed in 1998.
  • He compiled Selected Papers on Bit-String Physics to serve as an introduction to this new field.[citation needed]

Some of his letters to Gregory Breit (1899–1981) are in the collection of the Yale University Library.[10]


Noyes’s honors include:

  • Fulbright Scholarship (Birmingham, England) (1950-1)
  • Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award (1979)[2]
  • Leverhulme Lecturer in the Experimental Physics Department of the University of Liverpool (1957-8)
  • AVCO visiting professor at Cornell University (1961)
  • First Annual Alternative Natural Philosopher Award (1988?)
  • Scientific Essays in Honor of H Pierre Noyes on the Occasion of His 90th Birthday, festschrift, edited by John C Amson (University of St Andrews, UK), Louis Kauffman (University of Illinois at Chicago, USA) ISBN 978-981-4579-36-0 [11]


  • "Are Partons Confined Tachyons?" (PDF). SLAC-PUB-7100. Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University. March 1996. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  • Bit-String Physics: A Finite and Discrete Approach to Natural Philosophy (2001)[8]
  • "Comment on the Exterior-Interior Separation in the Three-Body Problem". Physical Review D. The American Physical Society. 5 (6): 1547–1551. March 15, 1972. Bibcode:1972PhRvD...5.1547N. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.5.1547.
  • "New Nonsingular Integral Equation for Two-Particle Scattering". Physical Review Letters. The American Physical Society. 15 (12): 538–540. September 20, 1965. Bibcode:1965PhRvL..15..538N. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.15.538.
  • Phys. Rev. Lett. 3, 191–193 (1959) Modification of the Effective-Range Formula for Nucleon-Nucleon Scattering, in collaboration with David Y. Wong at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley and Livermore, California
  • Phys. Rev. Lett. 15, 538–540 (1965) New Nonsingular Integral Equation for Two-Particle Scattering, in collaboration with David Y. Wong at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley and Livermore, California


  1. ^ Noyes, Henry Pierre. "United States Public Records, 1970-2009". familysearch. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "H. Pierre Noyes Professor (Emeritus)". SLAC faculty biography. January 26, 2007. Archived from the original on May 18, 2011. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  3. ^ "Pierre Noyes Obituary". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Noyes, H. Pierre (2011). Personal Interview.
  5. ^ "Causality, randomness, and related papers". Boundary Institute web site. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  6. ^ "Nuclear and Particle Science". Annual Reviews web site. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  7. ^ "Journal of the Western Regional Chapter of the Alternative Natural Philosophy Association". Stanford University. Archived from the original on July 23, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  8. ^ a b H. Pierre Noyes (2001). J. C. van den Berg (ed.). Bit-String Physics: A Finite and Discrete Approach to Natural Philosophy. World Scientific. ISBN 978-981-02-4611-2.
  9. ^ James V. Lindesay; H. Pierre Noyes; E. D. Jones. "CMB Fluctuation Amplitude from Dark Energy Partitions". Physics Letters B. 633 (4–5): 433–435. arXiv:astro-ph/0412477. Bibcode:2006PhLB..633..433L. doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2005.12.026.
  10. ^ "Manuscripts and Archives". Yale University Library.
    Breit, Gregory (1899–1981). Correspondence, 1932–1973, diaries and notebooks, 1935–1973, of physicist involved in the early development of the atom bomb. Includes correspondence with Suraj N. Gupta, McAllister H. Hull, Jr., Allan C. G. Mitchell, H. Pierre Noyes, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Moti L. Rustgi, Edward Teller, Merle A. Tuve, John A. Wheeler, and Eugene Paul Wigner, as well as with major scientific research institutions and federal science organizations. Diaries and notebooks include references to professional activities, lectures and courses taught, conferences and meetings attended, and calculations and related notations. Microfilmed 1989. 20,000 frames. 20 reels 35mm. Guide. HM 211 Microfilm available from Center for the History of Physics, American Institute of Physics, 335 East 45th Street, New York, New York 10017-3483.
  11. ^ "Scientific Essays in Honor of H Pierre Noyes on the Occasion of His 90th Birthday".