October 14, 2008

University community gathers to honor Nambu’s induction into cast of laureates

[img id="76842" align="alignleft"] Members of the University community gathered on Friday afternoon to celebrate the achievements of Professor Yoichiro Nambu, who last week was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in physics. The reception, which was held in the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Center for Integrative Science, was well attended by faculty members, students, and University administrators.

Provost Thomas Rosenbaum praised Nambu for devoting his life to thinking about fundamental problems in the world of physics, characterizing Nambu’s academic work and discoveries as “physics without boundaries.” In particular, Rosenbaum noted the applicability of Nambu’s theories across disciplines as reflective of the University’s own academic spirit, afterward offering up a champagne toast in Nambu’s honor.

Dean of the Physical Sciences Division Robert Fefferman thanked Nambu for his contributions to the University, telling attendees he had left a professorship in Japan for a junior position in the United States shortly after World War II.

Fefferman related a story about the physics department’s initial uncertainty over whether cultural differences would permit Nambu to settle in comfortably at the University. When one scientist caught Nambu saying, “whoops, I goofed,” the idiomatic response, along with Nambu’s solid work, quashed any lingering worries, Fefferman told the reception attendees, to laughter.

The Counsel General of Japan for Chicago, George Hisaeda, also attended. Prior to Nambu’s remarks, he presented the professor with a bouquet of flowers.

As he took the podium, Professor Nambu jokingly remarked,“I approve of all of what you said of me.” He told the audience he had not really intended to stay at the University when he arrived as a young scientist in 1954. However, he conceded, “I liked it so much that I have stayed here till now.” He credited his work with keeping him “alive and in good shape,” saying that he still comes into his office to think, study, and work with other members of the University.

After he descended from the stage, Nambu consulted with Provost Rosenbaum and the others gathered by the side. A few seconds later, Rosenbaum bounded back onto the stage. “Time for more champagne in celebration, I think,” he said.