Yuval Ne’eman died yesterday, from a brain hemorrhage caused by a recent fall. Science magazine has a story about this.
Together with Murray Gell-Mann, in 1961 Ne’eman co-discovered the SU(3) classification of strongly interacting particles. At the time he was both an Israeli military attache in London, as well as a graduate student of Abdus Salam (who was a devout Muslim). For some amusing stories of that period, see this web-page of fellow student Ray Streater.
In later years Ne’eman continued his research in theoretical physics, was president of Tel Aviv University, played an active role in the Israeli nuclear weapons program, and was the head of a far-right political party. He was definitely one of the most colorful characters in particle theory during the second half of the last century.
Update: There’s an obituary from the AP in the New York Times. It’s only comment about Ne’eman’s work in particle theory is that:
The Technion credited Dr. Ne’eman with discovering the principles of tiny subatomic particles, called quarks, although another scientist received the Nobel Prize for that discovery.
Ne’eman and Gell-Mann both realized that mesons and baryons could be classified as representations of SU(3), and some of the physics of the strong interactions could be understood this way. Gell-Mann won the Nobel because he later identified the fundamental representation of SU(3) with new particles, quarks.
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