Sylvester James Gates, Jr


Sylvester James Gates, Jr. photo

Sylvester James “Jim” Gates, Jr., a theoretical physicist, is currently the Ford Foundation Physics Professor, Affiliate Mathematics Professor at Brown University, and Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Faculty Fellow. He was born 15 December 1950, was raised in the U.S.A. and Canada. His degrees are from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (physics B.S. 1973/math B.S. 1973/ physics Ph.D. 1977). His doctoral thesis was M.I.T.’s first on supersymmetry. He held postdoctoral positions at Harvard and Caltech (1977-1982). In 1984, with M.T. Grisaru, M. Rocek, and W. Siegel, Gates co-authored “Superspace,” the first comprehensive book on the topic of supersymmetry. The year of 2018 marked the forty-sixth consecutive year of his university-level teaching in institutions as diverse as Caltech, Howard University, Gustavus Adophus College, M.I.T., and the University of Maryland.

Gates received the 2011 National Medal of Science, with a citation reading, “For his contribution to the mathematics of supersymmetry in particle, field, and string theories and his extraordinary efforts to engage the public on the beauty and wonder of fundamental physics.” In 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and later elected to the council of the NAS. Currently, he remains an active researcher in this field at the boundary of mathematics and physics by publishing regularly in refereed journals.

He served as a General Councilor of the American Physical Society during 1997-2001 and he was the first recipient of the APS Bouchet Award in 1994. He is also a recipient of the AAAS’s Public Understanding of Science & Technology Award. Gates served on the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the National Commission on Forensic Science, and the Maryland State Board of Education in the period of 2009-2016. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Past advisory positions include service on the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee on Physics, the Department of Energy’s High Energy Physics Advisory Panel, the LIGO Operations and Scientific Research Sub-Panel and NSF Review Committee, the LIGO Director's Physics Advisory Committee, the Board of Trustees of the Society for Science & the Public, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Forensic Science Standards Board. He is an alumnus of the Defense Science Study Group. His 2015 essay “Thoughts On Creativity, Diversity and Innovation in Science & Education” was cited in the Supreme Court decision known as “Fisher v. Texas.”

Having contributed to over a dozen programs, he continues to broadly appear in documentaries and most recently, "Inside CERN." Also he has been called by BBC America to comment upon the discovery of gravitational radiation, and the career of Stephen Hawking. Jim has created content for the public. During 2019, in a collaboration with accomplished novelist Cathie Pelletier, he co-authored “Proving Einstein Right: The Daring Expeditions that Changed How We Look at the Universe.”In 2017, with Frank Blitzer and Stephen Sekula, he co-authored “Reality in the Shadows (Or) What the Heck's the Higgs?” In 2006, he completed “Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality,” 24 half-hour DVD’s to make the complexities of modern theory accessible to non-physicists.