MacArthur Fellows Program

David Gross

Physicist | Class of 1987

Princeton, New Jersey
46 at time of award
Area of Focus
Published July 1, 1987

About David's Work

David Gross, a theoretical physicist, is a leader in the study of particle physics.

Gross is among those who originated the heterotic string theory, which has a strong potential for explaining the physical universe.  He has had a major impact on gauge field theory, and was the co-discoverer of asymptotic freedom, the basic feature of quantum chromodynamics, which holds that the closer quarks are to each other, the less the strong interaction between them; when quarks are in extreme proximity, the nuclear force between them is so weak that they behave almost as free particles. Gross’s contributions made possible the completion of the standard model of particle physics, and constitute an important step in providing a unified description of all the forces of nature, regardless of the spatial scale.


Gross was a Junior Fellow at Harvard University (1966-1969) and a professor holding several endowed chair appointments, at Princeton University (1969-1997).  In 1997, he became a professor and the director of the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was named the first Frederick W. Gluck Professor in Theoretical Physics in 2002. 

Gross received a B.Sc. (1962) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Ph.D. (1966) from the University of California, Berkeley.

Recent News

David Gross is Chancellor’s Chair Professor of Theoretical Physics and former director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2004, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery, with his student Frank Wilczek, of asymptotic freedom. He has also made seminal contributions to the theory of Superstrings. His additional awards include the Sakurai Prize of the American Physical Society (1986), Dirac (1988) and Oscar Klein (2000) Medals, the Harvey Prize of the Technion (2000), the European Physical Society Particle Physics Prize (2003), and the Grande Medaille d’Or (2004). He holds honorary degrees from universities in the United States, Britain, France, Israel, Brazil, Belgium, and China, and his memberships include the National Academy of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Indian Academy of Sciences, and the Chinese Academy of Science.

Updated July 2015

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