Steven Weinberg Quotes After Nobel Prize-winning Physicist Dies Aged 88

Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg, who helped produce theories about the fundamental forces of the universe, died aged 88 on Friday.

Weinberg was born in New York City in 1933 and began pursuing science as an interest when he was a teenager, spurred by encouragement from his father.

He studied at Cornell and then at the University of Copenhagen, before obtaining a doctorate at Princeton. He went on to be a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, and eventually the University of Texas at Austin in 1982, where he worked until his death.

William Rory Coker, a professor in the physics department at University of Texas at Austin, tweeted on Saturday that Weinberg died in the ICU of a local hospital late on Friday evening.

"He was considered to be the greatest living theoretical physicist by essentially all his colleagues, certainly by me," Coker said.

Here at the UT physics department we have lost our most treasured member, Prof. Steven Weinberg. He died in the ICU of a local hospital late last evening. He was considered to be the greatest living theoretical physicist by essentially all his colleagues, certainly by me.

— William Rory Coker (@CokerRory) July 24, 2021

Weinberg's Nobel Prize-winning work regarded the four forces of the universe: gravity, electromangetism, the strong force, and the weak force. Since the 1970s he produced research on a theory in which electromagnetism and the weak force could be unified.

Jay Hartzell, president of The University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement: "The passing of Steven Weinberg is a loss for The University of Texas and for society. Professor Weinberg unlocked the mysteries of the universe for millions of people, enriching humanity's concept of nature and our relationship to the world.

"From his students to science enthusiasts, from astrophysicists to public decision makers, he made an enormous difference in our understanding. In short, he changed the world."

He also gained public recognition for his ability to explain complex scientific ideas in an understandable way, demonstrated in his 1977 book The First Three Minutes, which explains how the universe was like just minutes after the Big Bang.

Below are some quotes from Weinberg on science, humanity, and religion.

"In the beginning there was an explosion. Not an explosion like those familiar on Earth, starting from a definite center and spreading out to engulf more and more of the circumambient air, but an explosion which occurred simultaneously everywhere, filling all space from the beginning, with every particle of matter rushing apart from every other particle." From The First Three Minutes, 1977, page 5.

"Men and women are not content to comfort themselves with tales of gods and giants, or to confine their thoughts to the daily affairs of life; they also build telescopes and satellites and accelerators and sit at their desks for endless hours working out the meaning of the data they gather." From The First Three Minutes, 1977, pages 154 - 155.

"The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless." From The First Three Minutes, 1979 edition, page 144.

"If there is no point in the universe that we discover by the methods of science, there is a point that we can give the universe by the way we live, by loving each other, by discovering things about nature, by creating works of art." From a PBS interview, date unknown.

"With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion." From a PhysLink article based on a talk he gave at a 1999 science conference.

"Scientists have discovered many peculiar things, and many beautiful things. But perhaps the most beautiful and peculiar thing that they have discovered is the pattern of science itself." Page 1, Chapter 2, Dreams Of A Final Theory.

Steven Weinberg
Steven Weinberg (R) standing with physicist Sheldon Glashow (L) in 1979. Weinberg studied the fundamental forces of the universe. Getty / Bettmann