Julian Seymour Schwinger was an American theoretical physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for his important work in quantum electrodynamics. When he was very young, reading the Encyclopedia Britannica made him more interested in physics. Soon, he started going to public libraries and reading books written by other people about that subject. By the time he was sixteen, he had written and published his first physics paper. But his desire to learn almost cost him his college degree because he wanted to learn so much. Professor Isidor Isaac Rabi at Columbia University was the first person to notice his talent and help him. Schwinger not only got his B.S. degree, but also his Ph.D. with his help. He proved himself to be a brilliant theorist very quickly. But he was very independent and would not let anyone mess with his work. Because of this, he worked mostly at night. He worked in many areas of physics, but his work in quantum electrodynamics is especially well-known. But many people think that his students were his most important work. He had more than seventy students, so even after he died, his ideas were still being used in modern physics.
Early years and childhood
Julian Seymour Schwinger was born to a wealthy Jewish family on February 12, 1918, in New York City. His father, Benjamin Schwinger, made a lot of money making clothes. Belle Rosenfeld, who was his mother, was known as Schwinger.
Harold was Julian’s older brother. For their high school education, both kids went to Townsend Harris High School. Julian was born into a family of children, and he became interested in physics at a young age.
He said later that he had been reading the Encyclopedia Britannica at home, but when he got to “Physics,” he got stuck. Soon, he started going to public libraries to learn more about that subject. In fact, at that time, he had learned most of what he knew about physics outside of school.
After Julian graduated from high school in 1933, he went to the City College of New York to study physics. By this time, he was used to doing his homework at night. He read outside publications more than his textbooks and learned a lot more about the subject.
Julian wrote his first physics paper in 1934 when he was 16 years old. By the time he was 17, he was doing complex calculations. But because he didn’t go to class and was more interested in solving harder problems, he started to have trouble with his teachers and did poorly on tests.
Professor Isidor Isaac Rabi of Columbia University saw one of his letters in the “Letters to the Editor” section of “Physical Review.” This was lucky for him. When he met young Julian in person, he was even more amazed.
Julian left City College of New York and went to the University of Columbia because Rabi told him to. In 1936, he went to the University of Columbia and got his B.S. At this point, he had already started working on a paper called “Magnetic Scattering of Neutrons,” which he sent to “Physical Review” when it was finished.
Edward Teller, who is known for his work in theoretical physics, was interested in the paper. On his suggestion, Julian added to the thesis and turned it in as his Ph.D. dissertation. However, he did not immediately get his degree.
At the time, all doctoral students had to go to math classes. Julian didn’t, mostly because those classes were held early in the morning. So he could make up for it, he had to take a test.
On the advice of Isidor Isaac Rabi, the math professor made a paper that was very hard. Even though that happened, Julian passed with flying colors and got his PhD in 1939. He was only 21 years old at the time.
Julian Schwinger’s Career
After getting his PhD in 1939, Julian Schwinger went to work as a National Research Council Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1940, he started working for J. Robert Oppenheimer as a research assistant.
In the summer of 1941, he started his regular job as a physics professor at Purdue University in Indiana. The next year, he got a promotion at the same University and became an assistant professor.
At that time, the Radiation Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had a program running at Purdue to study semiconductors. In 1942, Schwinger joined the program and worked on how microwave radiation moves through microwave cavities.
Oppenheimer asked Schwinger to work with him at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where an atomic bomb was being made, at the start of 1943. Schwinger said no, so later that same year he joined the Radiation Laboratory at MIT.
Since Schwinger liked to stay up late and liked to be alone, he chose to work as a night researcher. This gave him the chance to work alone. By applying what he knew about nuclear physics to the field of electromagnetic engineering, he came up with the theory of nuclear scattering, which was later used to help design radars.
He solved a wide range of microwave problems while he was working at the Radiation Laboratory. He later used the results of these works to come up with many of his well-known ideas. At the same time, he talked about wave guides in a number of lectures. A small group of coworkers was invited to these events.
During this time, his lectures showed how well he could analyze things and how much he knew about many different areas of science. But the war ended before he could finish the last book in the series. In 1968, a book called “Discontinuities in Waveguides” was made from all of these lectures.
As soon as the war ended in 1945, many well-known universities made offers to Schwinger. In the end, he left Purdue to become an Associate Professor at Harvard University, where he stayed until 1972.
In 1947, he got a raise and became a full professor. In September of the same year, Schwinger came up with the idea of renormalization, which helped to explain the Lamb Shift in an electron’s magnetic field.
Schwinger worked on different parts of modern theoretical physics while he was at Harvard, and until the middle of the 1950s, he was seen as an expert on the subject. In 1948 and 1949, he sent ‘Physics Review’ a series of papers called “Quantum Electrodynamics” (Parts I, II, and III). These papers won him a lot of praise.
In 1951, he published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences his equations for the Green’s functions of quantum fields. He also gave a lot of interesting lectures that were full of new ideas. Even though he didn’t bother to publish many of them, his students printed some of them after he died.
By the middle of the 1950s, some of his ideas were being questioned. Still, he kept looking for new ways to do things, and in 1966 he started to work on his “source theory,” which was a rewrite of quantum electrodynamics theory. But many of his Harvard colleagues didn’t agree with the idea.
In 1972, Schwinger left Harvard to work at the University of California, Los Angeles. There, he kept working on source theory, which, according to him, is the mathematical representation of how people change high-energy physics.
In the 1980s, Schwinger started publishing papers about the Thomas-Fermi model of atoms. Then, starting in 1989, he became interested in cold fusion research, which was not popular at the time. But his papers were not chosen to be published. His last paper was about something called “sonoluminescence.”
During his career, Schwinger wrote and published around 200 papers and several books. He also helped about 73 doctoral students and 20 post-doctoral students with their studies. Many of them went on to be famous physicists, and three of them won the Nobel Prize. Because of them, his ideas still have an effect on modern physics.
Works of note
Most people know Julian Schwinger for his work on quantum electrodynamics (QED). In several important papers, he not only worked on the formal side of the new QED, but he also made them easier to use for calculations in real life. The things he found helped give the quantum field theory a new twist.
Awards & Achievements
Julian Schwinger and Richard Feynman and Shinichiro Tomonaga all got the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. Even though they did not work together, their basic work in quantum electrodynamics (QED) brought new ideas to the field and had far-reaching effects.
Schwinger also won the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Nature of Light Award in 1949, the Albert Einstein Award in 1951, and the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1964.
In 1961 and 1962, Purdue University and Harvard University both gave him honorary D.Sc. degrees.
Personal History and Legacies
In 1947, while he was teaching at Harvard University, Julian Schwinger married Clarice Carrol. There were no kids in the family.
Schwinger got pancreatic cancer near the end of his life. Even so, he worked hard almost right up until the end. His last paper, about sonoluminescence, came out the same year he died.
On July 16, 1994, he died at his home in Los Angeles from pancreatic cancer. Clarice, his wife, lived on after him.
Estimated Net worth
Julian is one of the wealthiest and most well-known physicists. Based on what we found on Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, Julian Schwinger is worth about $30 million.
He wrote the dissertation for his Ph.D. while he was still an undergraduate.
Over the course of his sixty-year career, he taught at least four generations of graduate students. Professor Saxon says that Schwinger’s students and their students teach at the best universities in the United States.