Martin L. Perl, SLAC physicist and Nobel Prize-winner, dies at 87

Oct. 2, 2014, 12:05 a.m.

SLAC physicist Martin L. Perl died Tuesday, Sept. 30, at Stanford Hospital. He was 87. Perl was a professor emeritus of physics at Stanford and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1995.

Perl won a Nobel Prize in 1995. (Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service
Perl won a Nobel Prize in 1995. (Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service

The prize was awarded for his work to discover the tau lepton, an elementary particle with negative electric charge and spin number of ½. The tau lepton is one of six particles — including the electron and muon — that are, along with the respective particles’ neutrinos, classified as leptons.

Perl moved from the University of Michigan to Stanford as the linear accelerator was constructed in 1963. He eventually discovered the tau lepton through a series of experiments in the mid-’70s.

Perl served as a Merchant Marine and in the military during World War II and later earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1948. He worked for General Electric before earning his Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University.

He won the Wolf Prize in physics in 1982, belonged to the National Academy of Sciences and was a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Perl is survived by children Joseph, Jed, Matthew and Anne Bernard, former wife Teri Perl, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Alice Phillips '15 is Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. Previously, she worked as the paper's Deputy Editor, Chief Copy Editor, a News Desk Editor and a News Staff Writer. Alice is a biology major from Los Angeles, California.

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