Richard Dalitz

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Richard Henry Dalitz
Born (1925-02-28)28 February 1925
Dimboola, Australia
Died 13 January 2006(2006-01-13)
Oxford, England
Nationality Australian, British
Fields Physics
Institutions University of Bristol
University of Birmingham
Cornell University
Enrico Fermi Institute
University of Oxford
Alma mater Melbourne University
Cambridge University
Doctoral advisor Nicholas Kemmer
Doctoral students Frank Close
Christopher Llewellyn Smith
Stanley Mandelstam
Known for Dalitz plot
Dalitz pair
CDD poles
Notable awards Maxwell Medal and Prize (1966)
Hughes Medal (1975)
Royal Medal (1982)
Harrie Massey Medal and Prize (1990)

Richard Henry Dalitz (28 February 1925 – 13 January 2006) was an Australian physicist known for his work in particle physics.[1][2]

Born in the town of Dimboola, Victoria, Dalitz studied physics and mathematics at Melbourne University before moving to the United Kingdom in 1946, starting his PhD research at the University of Cambridge. After two years he took up a one year post at the University of Bristol, and then joined Rudolf Peierls' group at University of Birmingham. Dalitz moved to Cornell University in 1953. He then became a professor at the Enrico Fermi Institute in Chicago from 1956 to 1963. Next, he moved to the University of Oxford as a Royal Society research professor,[3] although keeping a connection with Chicago until 1966. He retired in 1990.


At Birmingham he completed his thesis demonstrating that the electrically neutral pion could decay into a photon and an electron-positron pair, now known as a Dalitz pair. In addition, he is known for other key developments in particle physics: the Dalitz plot and the Castillejo–Dalitz–Dyson (CDD) poles.[1]

Dalitz plots[4][5] play a central role in the discovery of new particles, in current high-energy physics experiments,[1] and were used in the search for the Higgs boson.[6] The Dalitz plots were discovered in 1953, while he was at Cornell.

Furthermore, Dalitz was directly involved in pioneering quark research and he participated in the identification of the top quark.[2] His various fundamental contributions have led to practitioners in the field to identify Dalitz as one of particle physics "greatest unsung scientists."[1]

Dalitz was an old and close friend of John Clive Ward, the creator of the Ward Identities.[7] Their friendship began around 1948 when Dalitz independently derived Ward's results[8] for the polarisation entanglement of two photons propagating in opposite directions.[9] Dalitz co authored a succinct, and yet revealing, account of Ward's physics.[10]


During his lifetime, Dalitz produced numerous publications. One article lists 221 papers, and a total of 26 authored book reviews, public lectures and obituaries, and edited books.[2] Amongst his book reviews was a critical review of Andrew Pickering's book Constructing Quarks, in which he takes to task Pickering's implication that experimenters are essentially subservient to theoreticians, saying "In reality, experimenters are cussed individuals, eager to prove the theoreticians wrong whenever possible".[11]


Dalitz was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1960 and he received the Hughes Medal in 1975 "for his distinguished contributions to the theory of the basic particles of matter." He was also awarded the Maxwell Medal and Prize and the Royal Medal. Dalitz was awarded the 1980 J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize.[12][13]

Dalitz's friends and co-authors (partial list)[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Close, Frank (24 January 2006). "Richard Dalitz: Physicist who mapped the behaviour of exotic particles and argued for the reality of quarks". The Guardian. 
  2. ^ a b c Ian J.R. Aitchison; Frank E. Close; Avraham Gal; & D. John Millener (2 February 2008). "The scientific heritage of Richard Henry Dalitz". arXiv:physics/0603219. 
  3. ^ Close, Frank (July 2006). "Obituary: Richard Henry Dalitz". Physics Today 59 (7): 65–66. Bibcode:2006PhT....59g..65C. doi:10.1063/1.2337841. 
  4. ^ R. H. Dalitz (1953). "On the analysis of τ-meson data and the nature of the τ-meson". Philosophical Magazine 44: 1068. doi:10.1080/14786441008520365. 
  5. ^ R. H. Dalitz (1954). "Decay of τ mesons of known charge". Physical Review 95 (4): 1046. Bibcode:1954PhRv...94.1046D. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.94.1046. 
  6. ^ A. Kasmi, Search for the Standard Model Higgs Boson in final states with photons or taus at the Tevatron, PoS (EPS-HEP 2011) 237.
  7. ^ F. J. Duarte, The man behind an identity in quantum electrodynamics, Australian Physics 46 (6), 171–175 (2009)
  8. ^ M. H. L. Pryce and J. C. Ward, Angular correlation effects with annihilation radiation, Nature 160, 146 (1947).
  9. ^ J. C. Ward, Memoirs of a Theoretical Physicist (Optics Journal, New York, 2004).
  10. ^ R. H. Dalitz and F. J. Duarte, John Clive Ward, Physics Today 53 (10), 99–100 (2000).
  11. ^ "Fundamental Developments: (review of) Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics by A. Pickering", Nature 314 (6009), 28 March 1985: 387–388, Bibcode:1985Natur.314..387D, doi:10.1038/314387a0 
  12. ^ Walter, Claire (1982). Winners, the blue ribbon encyclopedia of awards. Facts on File Inc. p. 438. ISBN 9780871963864. 
  13. ^ "Dalitz receives Oppenheimer Prize". Physics Today (American Institute of Physics): 67. April 1980. doi:10.1063/1.2914032. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 

External links[edit]