Thursday, May 10, 2018

David Pines (1924-2018): quantum-many body theorist

I learnt today that David Pines died last week. He was a pioneer in quantum many-body theory, applying it not just to solid state physics but also to nuclear physics and astrophysics (neutron stars).  Furthermore, he was a great advocate of the importance of emergence in science, writing a classic paper, "The Theory of Everything," together with Bob Laughlin.

David also left a legacy of creative new institutions, being a co-founder of the Sante Fe Institute and the International Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (I2CAM). Indeed, starting this blog was stimulated by David Pines and I2CAM. In January 2009, I attended the annual meeting of I2CAM in Cambridge and David organised a session on public outreach, including a presentation on blogging.

Piers Coleman, a current co-Director of I2CAM, has written a nice obituary which gives more details about David's contributions, both scientific and institutional.


  1. David Pines, 93, Insightful and Influential Physicist, Dies
    NYT article , never won a Nobel , but
    was ....
    1) "physics department at the University of Illinois as a postdoctoral researcher for John Bardeen, 1952
    2) Dr. Bardeen, Dr. Cooper and Dr. Schrieffer shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1972 for what is known as BCS theory. (Dr. Bardeen also shared the 1956 prize, for the invention of the transistor.) By rule, no more than three people can share a Nobel.

    “David was a bit unlucky in that regard,” David Campbell, a professor of physics at Boston University, said in a telephone interview. If history had unfolded a bit differently, perhaps it might have been the BPS theory of superconductivity instead"

    3) few years after his work with Dr. Bardeen, Dr. Pines collaborated with two other physicists, Aage Niels Bohr and Ben Roy Mottelson, on a paper describing excitations in nuclei. That work led to Dr. Bohr and Dr. Mottelson’s winning the 1975 Nobel in physics, shared with another physicist, Leo James Rainwater, who had independently come up with similar ideas.
    above lines from article below in NYT

    1. Thanks for posting the link to the New York Times obit. I was waiting for it.
      It is worth reading.
      Interesting how Phil Anderson pays tribute to David and acknowledges neither behaved well in the contentious early years of high-Tc cuprate theory.
      In hindsight, I think most would say they were both half-right.