Princeton Years (1958-62)
and Years after Princeton
- Young Suh Kim
Department of Physics
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland 20742, U.S.A.
- Home Page.
- Princeton Page.
- On March 12, 1958, while I was a fourth-year student at
Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, I received a letter
from Princeton University telling me that I was one of the 15 students admitted
to their graduate program. This was the happiest day in my life. Going to
Princeton was working with Albert Einstein even though he went to Heaven
three years earlier in 1955.
Princeton was a small town and the university was a single-gender school (boys only)
at that time. There were no excitements other than studying at the libraries.
However, the city of New York was one-hour train ride from Princeton. I went to
New York often and was able to enjoy all aspects of American life. I still
maintain a webpage dedicated to the New York City.
I worked hard at Princeton and got my PhD degree in 1961, and I was asked to stay
there for one additional year as a post-doctoral fellow until 1962.
Sam Treiman with Steve Weinberg. Weinberg is so famaus these days that not many
people know Treiman was his thesis advisor. This photo is from one of the
issues of the Princeton Alumni Weekly.
- My thesis advisor was
Sam Treiman. He was a good teacher and wrote good letters for me throughout
my career. However, did he have enough scientific competence to support my research
results after my PhD degree? My answer is No.
I used to feel very bad about this, but not now.
Most of the famous people accomplished more than their own teachers.
I should be but am not famous enough (yet).
Steven Weinberg (Nobel 1979) is very famous. Did you know his advisor at
Princeton was also Sam Treiman?
Weinberg got his degree in 1957, and I got mine in 1961. You may check the list
of Treiman's student from
- In 1962, I was appointed as an assistant professor at the University of Maryland
near the city of Washington, DC, and I started my professional career.
While I was
struggling to find out my own way of doing physics, the physics world produced a genius
of the century in 1965. His name was
Roger Dashen and became a full professor at the Princeton's Institute of Advanced Study.
I became very unhappy because of my Herod Complex.
Someone other than myself is a genius? Totally unacceptable to me.
- I looked at Dashen's papers carefully and found a gross mistake in his reasoning. I then
published my result in the Physical Review. Click here for a
However, was the American physics community going to accept my result? The answer was No.
The average physicists were not smart enough to understand Dashen's papers or my papers.
Thus, the reaction from the Amrican physics community was
Dashen is a genius, but you are only a Korean.
Go back to Korea!
This was a very valid argument in the United States at that time (1960-80). Korea was
regarded as a hopelessly underdeveloped country. Not knowing the history of that area
earlier than the Pearl Harbor Day of 1941, my American friends used to tell me that
the best solution of the Korean problem is to give the country to Japan.
Sam Treiman and his wife, with my family in 1987. My son was in his quantum
mechanics clas at Princeton during his seior year. This photo was taking during
the reception for graduating seniors and their families.
- Thus, my position at the University was in danger. The only person who could help
me in this difficult situation was Sam Treiman, who was my thesis advisor at Princeton.
I went to Princeton to explain to him the technical details of Dashen's mistake, but he
did not have enough brain to understand my explanations. He became very angry, and his
attitude toward me was "Never come to Princeton again!"
In the meantime, the University of Maryland went through a very careful examination of
my case by contacting all possible experts in the field, and determined that I was right.
This is the reason why I maintained my office at the University campus, and publish
books and articles with the University address. The United States has been very nice
- This means that I became alive and well again, but I could not use my
Princeton background through my thesis advisor. Dashen was still a genius there.
However, I could still use my Princeton connection if I change the the name of
my advisor. How was it possible after the graduation?
When I was a student there I noticed that Eugene Paul Wigner (Nobel 1963) was totally
isolated from the rest of the physics department. The best way was to contact him,
but how? The only way to contact was to tell him the story he wanted to hear. I
got this idea from my piece of Korean wisdom.
What story did I tell Wigner?
- Wigner published many papers, but
his 1939 paper on his little groups was dearest
to his heart. The paper deals with the internal
space-time symmetries of particles in Einstein's Lorentz-covariant world.
He was of course happy with his Nobel prize of 1963, but was not 100-percent happy
because the prize was not for this paper of of 1939. He wanted to hear that this
paper alone deserves one full Nobel prize. This is precisely what I told him in
1986, and I had to give the reason why.
Earlier, after my disappointment with my thesis advisor in 1966, I studied
Wigner's 1939 paper on the internal space-time symmetries of particles in Einstein's
world. What does the word internal mean? Click here.
- With my younger colleagues I published my papers in from 1983 to 1986 leading to
E=(m2 + p2)1/2
| E = cp
This portrait was constructed a Turkish physicst named Bullent Atalay in 1979.
- Earlier in 1979, a Turkish physicist named Bulent Atalay constructed this portrait
of Wigner with Einstein. Wigner was so happy with this portrait that he prominently
displayed it in his office.
With the table given above, I was able to tell Wigner that his 1939 paper is as
important as Einstein's special theory of relativity which leads to the formula
E = mc2.
Wigner was so happy that he invited me to publish papers with him, and I wrote
seven papers to make him happy. Since I published those papers with him, I became
known as Wigner's youngest student at Princeton.
Since I became Wigner's student particulary on the Einstein issue. I am able to
show to the world, the following genealogy.
Paul A. M. Dirac was Wigner's brother-in-law.