Samuel C. C. Ting

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Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Ann Arbor, Michigan

Samuel Chao Chung Ting is a Chinese-American physicist who discovered the “J” particle and won the Nobel Prize for it. His parents were university professors in China, and they came to the U.S. to visit. They planned to go back to China before he was born. But he was born too soon, so he accidentally became an American citizen. Soon after that, the Tings moved back to China, where they stayed until he was twelve. Then they moved to Taiwan. When Ting turned 20, he moved to the United States with $100 and little or no English. Here, he was able to get a full scholarship to the University of Michigan. After getting his PhD, he worked as a Ford Foundation Fellow at CERN in Geneva. He then taught at Columbia University for a few years. He started the work that won him the Nobel Prize in Physics at DESY in Hamburg, but he finished it at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York City. At the same time, he was a professor at MIT. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer was put on the International Space Station thanks to him. He was in charge of the whole project from start to finish.

Childhood and Adolescence

Samuel Chao Chung Ting was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States, on January 27, 1936. His father, Kuan-hai Ting, was an engineering professor, and his mother, Tsun-ying Jeanne Wang, was a psychology professor. He was the oldest of the three children they had.

His parents met and married as graduate students at the University of Michigan, originally from Rizhao Country in Shandong Province, China. They had settled in Rizhao, but a few months before Samuel’s birth, they traveled to the United States for a brief visit in the hopes of returning to China before their son was born.

Samuel, on the other hand, was born ahead of schedule, and because his parents were still in Michigan, he was born an American citizen. The family returned to China two months later, where he was largely nurtured by his maternal grandmother, who had raised his mother alone.

Soon after, Japan invaded China, and the situation became so violent that Samuel was forced to attend school at home. The situation worsened as the Chinese Civil War broke out, and the family moved to Taiwan, where Samuel was sent to school for the first time in 1948.

Samuel entered National Cheng Kung University after graduating from high school, but after a year, he decided to pursue higher study in the United States of America. As a result, on September 6, 1956, he arrived in Detroit with only $100 in his pocket.

He then received a full scholarship to attend the University of Michigan. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics in 1959. He got his MS in physics in 1960, and then his Ph.D. in 1962 from the same university, working under L.W. Jones and M.L. Perl.

Samuel Ting’s Career

Samuel C. C. Ting got a Ford Foundation grant in 1963, shortly after completing his Ph.D., and joined the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. He worked at the Proton Synchrotron with Giuseppe Cocconi, a vital component of CERN’s accelerator complex.

Protons from the Proton Synchrotron Booster or heavy ions from the Low Energy Ion Ring were accelerated at the Synchrotron. Working under Cocconi allowed him to gain a deeper understanding of the subject.

In the spring of 1965, he returned to the United States and accepted a position as a Physics instructor at Columbia University in New York. Here he met and worked with prominent scientists such as L. Lederman, T.D. Lee, I.I. Rabi, M. Schwarts, J. Steinberger, C.S. Wu, and others, and benefitted significantly from these connections.

The Cambridge Electron Accelerator at Harvard University conducted an experiment on electron-positron pair generation by photon collision with a nuclear target the next year. Ting realized that the experiment’s outcome contradicted known quantum electrodynamics theories. As a result, he began to research it thoroughly.

He then wrote to G. Weber and W. Jentschke at the Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron (DESY) to propose a pair production experiment there. In March 1966, he took leave from Columbia University and flew to Hamburg after his application was accepted.

Ting formed his own organization in Hamburg and began working on the pair manufacturing experiment. Ting initially built a double-arm spectrometer, which he used to investigate the physics of electron pairs, specifically how they are formed during the decay of photon-like particles.

He returned to the United States in 1967 to work as an Assistant Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1969, he was appointed as a full professor after only two years.

He brought his team to the United States in 1971 and continued the experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, New York. He created a more advanced version of the double-arm spectrometer that could use a higher-energy proton beam.

Finally, in August 1974, they discovered evidence of a new type of heavy particle, which they named the ‘J’ particle. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this work two years later.

Ting was named the Thomas Dudley Cabot Institute Professor of Physics at MIT in 1977. He continued his search for new subatomic particles and gained more opportunities to participate in large-scale, expensive research both in the United States and abroad.

He proposed mounting a space-borne cosmic-ray detector on the International Space Station in 1995, which was ultimately dubbed the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. He was not only chosen as the lead investigator but his proposal was also accepted.

The $1.5 billion effort brought together 500 scientists from 56 universities across 16 nations. On Space Shuttle mission STS-91 in 1998, they flew and tested a prototype. It was given the designation AMS-01.

Finally, AMS-02 was successfully launched on Shuttle mission STS-134 on May 16, 2001. On May 19, 2011, it was deployed on the International Space Station. Ting was not only in response to building this sensitive detector module for this trip, but he has also been directing it since then.

Ting’s Major Projects

Ting is most famous for discovering the ‘J’ particle. Ting and his colleagues at the Brookhaven National Laboratory received an odd reading in August 1974, which contradicted the conventional atomic theory. He assumed it meant there was an unknown high-mass particle present.

He subsequently forwarded the information to Giorgio Bellettini, the director of Italy’s Frascati Laboratory. He corroborated Ting’s discovery of a new elementary particle three times heavier than a proton with a narrow range of energy states and a longer life span than anything known in physics.

They published their findings in Physical Review Letters in November. They named the project ‘j-particle’ because it involved electromagnetic currents with the sign ‘j’. They were soon informed that Stanford University physicist Burton Richter had also discovered a new particle, which he had termed the ‘psi particle.’

Ting and Richter then compared their findings and found they had discovered the same particle independently. The particle is now called the j/psi particle. The experiment established the presence of ‘charm,’ a fourth fundamental subatomic particle.

Achievements and Awards

Samuel C. C. Ting and Burton Richter shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1976 for “pioneering work in the finding of a heavy elementary particle of a new kind.”

He has also received various other international accolades, including the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award (1975), Eringen Medal (1977), and De Gasperi Award (1988). He is a member of a number of national and international groups and has received honorary degrees from a number of prestigious colleges.

Ting’s Private Life

Samuel Ting married Kay Louise Kuhne in 1960. From this relationship, he has two daughters, Jeanne and Amy. The marriage ended in divorce later on.
Ting married Dr. Susan Carol Marks in 1985. Christopher is their son.

Estimated Net worth

Samuel C. C. Ting is estimated to have a net worth of $9 million and makes most of his money as a university teacher and physicist. We don’t know enough about Samuel C. C. Ting’s cars or his way of life.


Ting named the particle he discovered a ‘j’ particle mainly because the work involved electromagnetic currents, which are symbolized by the letter ‘j’. At the same time, the Chinese character for the word ‘Ting’ looks similar to the English letter ‘J.’

Ting is the first individual to make the Nobel Dinner address in Mandarin, despite the fact that several Chinese have previously earned the prize.