Feza Gürsey

Matematik Bilgini, Fizikçi

07 Nisan, 1921
13 Nisan, 1992
Istanbul University Faculty of Science Department of Physics-Mathematics

Physicist and mathematician.  (B. April 7th, 1921, Istanbul – D. April 13th, 1992, New Haven / USA). He was born as the first son of the chemist and scientist Prof. Dr. Remziye Hisar (1902-1992), who took her chemistry doctorate from Sorbonne University and Dr. Reşit Süreyya Gürsey (1889-1962), medical doctor and physicist.

He started primary school at Paris, Jeanne d’Arc Primary School and there, he won the admiration of her teachers. Beginning from the third grade, he continued to his education life at Galatasaray High School at Istanbul and he also drew the attention of his teachers.

 He decided to study physics in high school years. After graduating from Galatasaray High School by ranking first at school in 1940; he started to study at Istanbul University, Faculty of Science. He finished Physics-Mathematics department in 1944 with first place degree. He passed an examination of the Ministry of National Education and became entitled to register to England Imperial College. He carried out his doctorate under the advice of Prof. H. Jones between 1945 and 50. He worked on the application of Quaternions to field theory in 1950 and this became a focus point of research that will last for his entire life. During these years, he published two important articles named An Unidimentional Statistical System” and “On the Binary Wave Equations”. Between the years of 1951-57, he was assigned to the Department of Applied Mathematics at Istanbul University with the support of the Distinguished Professor Cahit Arf as an assistant. In 1953, he became an associate professor with his thesis on “Classical and Wave Mechanics of Spinning Electrons”.

In 1952, he married Suha Pamir who was also research assistant in Istanbul University and their first and only son Yusuf was born in 1954. Between 1957 and 61, he moved to USA with her family to research in Brookhaven National Accelerator Laboratory in USA with the scholarship of the Atom Energy Commission. During those years, he carried out studies together with professors of physics in Brookhaven National Accelerator Laboratory, Princeton Institute for Prospective Studies and Columbia University.

In the 1960s, Gürsey, thanks to his discovery of “Chiral Antisymmetry” rule; he made an important contribution to the space and time symmetry studies. At the result of his co-researches with M. Günaydin between 1974 and 76, they proved that the “octonion” algebra of a combined E6 group was related with the color dynamics. He became popular in the science world with his article focusing on the relation of charge independence with the Baryon conservation and the Pauli Transformation. In the letter sent by Wolfgang Pauli to the famous Russian physicist Landau, he mentioned the article of Gürsey and stated that he was planning to benefit from this symmetry on his own spinor models in his research which is carried out with Heisenberg on spinor models. When Gürsey requested a reference from W. Pauli to continue his researches at the Princeton Institute; Pauli responded saying that: “I don’t think on I should recommend you to them, contrary, I think if I can ever recommend Princeton Institute to you.”

As the result of the insisting of Prof. Erdal İnönü, he returned from USA to Turkey in 1961, he founded Theoretical Physics Department of Middle East Technical University (METU) and worked there as the professor until 1974. During this time, he managed to evoke many studies in theoretical physics in Turkey. He organized many conferences and invited many important physicists from Princeton and Yale Universities to METU.

The institute founded with the name of Erdal İnönü in 1983 and affiliated to Boğaziçi University and Turkey Scientific and Technological Research Council (TÜBİTAK) continued  its activities with the name of “Feza Gürsey Institute of Science”.  The institute is located in the Kandilli Campus of Boğaziçi University in Istanbul. It hosts the researchers who work on mathematics and theoretical physics.

Upon the request of the Theoretical Physics Department of Yale University; he accepted to be the guest professorship offer of the Yale University between the years of 1965-74. However, he didn’t leave his position in METU. He continued his researches on non linear chiral models, conformal symmetry and general relativity. In 1974, he became the full-time professor of Yale University’s Physics Department and had to quit his position in METU.

He worked in Yale University from 1971 to 1991 till he was retired. Due to his contributions to the elementary physics particles; he was deemed worthy of Oppenheimer Award together with Sheldon Glashow on 19th January 1977. He has also awards like; The Science Award by TUBITAK in 1969, Einstein Medal in 1979; Guest Professor and College de France Medal in 1981, the Outstanding Scientist Award by Turkish-American Scientists and Engineers Society in 1989, Galatasaray Foundation’s Medal in 1990. His name was given to the first science center of Turkey, which was established in Ankara in 1993. His most important work is “Symmetries in Particle Physics (New York, 1984). 

After he was retired in 1991; Prof. Gürsey returned to Turkey and accepted the invitation of Boğaziçi University’s Physics Department. That same year, he got prostate cancer and died in Yale University’s Hospital on 13th April 1992. His funeral was brought to Turkey and was buried in the family graveyard in Anadoluhisarı, İstanbul.  

REFERENCE: Nuovo Cımento / “Relation of Charge Independence and Baryon Conversation to Pauli's Transformations (411-415, 1958), “Dünya Çapındaki Fizikçimiz Çok Yönlü Bilimci Feza Gürsey [1921-1992] (Bilim ve Teknik, Nisan 1994), M. Ali Alpar / “Feza Bey’in Anısına” - Feza Gürsey / “Yeni Bir Âlem – Yüksek Enerji Fiziği” -  Namık Kemal Pak / “Bir Yıldız Kaydı” (Bilim ve Teknik, 1992, C.25, s. 6-11), Meral Serdaroğlu / Bilim Dervişi Feza Bey (2007), İhsan Işık / Ünlü Bilim Adamları (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 2, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013).


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