Gaillard is a very distinguished HEP phenomenologist, with a career that began in the 1960s, taking her in 1981 to a professorship at Berkeley, from which she is now retired. She has been married to two other physicists, Jean-Marc Gaillard and Bruno Zumino.
One highlight of her career is her work on charmed particles, which included an accurate prediction of the charmed quark mass (1.5 GeV, in this paper with Ben Lee, see page 905). The prediction came in a paper published in mid-1974, months before the discovery of the J/Psi in November. Unfortunately she and Lee didn’t have the courage to put the prediction in the abstract, which just said “the average mass of charmed pseudoscalar states lies below 10 GeV”.
Wikipedia also credits her (with Chanowitz and Ellis) with a prediction of the b-quark mass. Maybe I’m missing something here, but this appears to be much less justifiable, since the paper was based on an SU(5) model which is known not to work. It’s also a much vaguer prediction, and appears in the abstract in a mistaken form. In the book, Gaillard tells the story:
We were correcting the proofs for the published version of the paper in July, at around the same time I went to pick up Leon Lederman at the Geneva airport, and, through a screen near the baggage claim gate, he handed me a beautiful histogram showing clear evidence for a b-bbar spin-one bound state – named Upsilon by its discoverers – with a mass of about 10 billion electron volts, in other words, evidence for a bottom quark with a mass of about five billion electron volts. John quickly penciled in a correction to the abstract with our more precise prediction, but his handwriting was so bad the “to” was read as “60”, and our prediction came out in print as
implying a b-quark mass of over 5000 billion electron volts.
The upsilon discovery was announced publicly at a press conference only later, in August. I can’t help noticing that it seems that back in 1977 discussing results of an HEP experiment before the press conference wasn’t unusual. It is only more recently that one hears that to do this is to subvert the scientific process.
Among the many other things I learned from the book was the origin of John Hagelin and the Maharishi’s posters explaining that N=8 supergravity was the TOE fitting together with the Maharishi’s ideas. Hagelin was dating Gaillard’s cousin and learned about the N=8 story from Gaillard.
The latter part of her career focused first on supergravity, then in 1985 on superstring phenomenology. Thirty years later she’s sill working on much the same idea as in 1985 (see here). The book explains the idea of string theory unification using a compactification, but doesn’t reflect on the question of when or whether it might be a good idea to finally give up on this.
A major theme of the book is that of how her gender has affected her career, including more discussion of the details of her employment and job offers than would be usual in a book of this kind. It’s a complex story, with the details of it well worth paying attention to for anyone interested in the problems women encounter in science. Gaillard started out her career facing serious obstacles as a woman, but later on achieved a large degree of professional success. She has a lot to say about the attitudes and remarks she ran into from men along the way, often from ones who were close friends.
She is most critical of the CERN theory group, which she left in 1981 after being turned down for a senior staff position (at a time she had job offers from Berkeley and Femilab). To this day, as far as I can tell, CERN-TH has no women as permanent scientific staff, and only one (out of 19) female staff members. Perhaps things will change with the incoming CERN director…
Last Updated on