Dirac Medallists 1997

Peter Goddard, Miguel Virasoro and David OlivePeter Goddard, Miguel Virasoro and David Olive

Peter Goddard, University of Cambridge, UK (at the time of the award)

David Olive (1937-2012), University College of Swansea, UK

in recognition of their farsighted and highly influential contributions to theoretical physics, over an extended period. Goddard and Olive have contributed many crucial insights that shaped our emerging understanding of string theory and have also had a far-reaching impact on our understanding of four-dimensional field theory.

Goddard's work on quantization of the relativistic string (with J. Goldstone, C. Rebbi, and C. Thorn) showed definitively that dual resonance models should be understood as string theories. Olive's work on spacetime supersymmetry of the spinning string theory (with F. Gliozzi and J. Scherk) made possible the whole idea of superstrings, which we now understand as the most natural framework for supersymmetry and string theory.

Goddard and Olive introduced key ideas about the use of current algebra in string theory which were very important in the subsequent discovery of attractive ways to incorporate space-time gauge symmetry in string theory, thus making it possible for string theory to incorporate the standard model of particle physics.

These discoveries, made in the years 1973-83, were among the most crucial steps in making possible the 'superstring revolution' of 1984-5. The 'second superstring revolution' of the last few years has been equally dependent on pioneering insights about magnetic monopoles made in 1977 by Goddard, Olive, and J. Nuyts, and further extended by Olive and C. Montonen. Their ideas concerning a dual interpretation of magnetic charge, and then about electric-magnetic duality in non-abelian gauge theory, were way ahead of their time and have proved to have a far-reaching importance, which we are only now beginning to understand, in governing the dynamics of four-dimensional field theory and of superstring theory.

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