Salam was my supervisor for the Ph. D. degree, 1957-1959. I finished it in October 1959, and was examined in April 1960, with Peierls as the external examiner. I had chosen my own field of research, known at the time as axiomatic quantum field theory. Salam had done his best to get me a good problem in particle physics. In 1958, a fat document came to him from Birmingham; it was the thesis of a certain S. Mandelstam, and Salam told me "this seems to be important". I read about the double dispersion relations, which I immediately wished I had thought of. I comforted myself with the thought that the paper was based on a conjecture, not a proved result, unlike the case for single dispersion relations. After a few days, Salam asked me how I was getting on. I made out that I was not very enthusiastic about the double dispersion relations, by asking, what was the research problem he was offering? Should I try to prove the Mandelstam relations from the Wightman axioms? He replied, "you can try to DISPROVE them if you like; if you don't want the document, let me have it back". He duly gave it to S. W. McDowell, a visiting Fellow, who was able to find a publishable result on the subject.
Later, Salam tried again; he gave me a paper by K. Symanzik, which contained the first analysis of the singularity structure of the general Feynman integral. On the first page, Symanzik uses the concept of Gram determinant. Now, I knew what a determinant was, but not a Gram determinant; so I wasted a few days until I could ask Salam to explain it. He said "these things can be found out! If you don't want the problem..." He gave the paper to J. C. Taylor, who got one of the first results on the pinch singularities of Feynman diagrams and in fact derived the equation for the real points on what became known later as the Landau curve. So, due to immaturity as a researcher, I had thrown away what were to become the two most active subjects of research in particle physics for the next 5 years.
In 1965, Salam ran a research conference at his new International Centre for Theoretical Physics, and I was invited, but no expenses were promised. I went with my wife and son (17 months old), and we shared a cheap hotel up the mountain, which had somewhat damp rooms. J. C. Polkinghorne was also at this abode. The conference was at a much bigger hotel on the front. There (with O. W. Greenberg) I met John Strachey, the Minister for Food in Harold Wilson's government. Wally was polite, saying what a famous name the man had (referring to Lytton Strachey). I tried to make the point that academic salaries (in Britain) were not very good. I think that Mr. Strachey thought that Wally was also British, for he said "You can't complain, for the British taxpayer is after all funding you to sit on the beach at conferences like the one you are at". I opened my mouth to say that I was paying for myself, and that Wally wasn't costing Britain a penny, when Strachey made off. Soon after that, Salam found a fund that could pay me $100, to cover some of the expenses. Mr. Wilson had said that the salaries of professors was not too low; for, every vacancy always had more than one applicant.
It was at the conference hotel that I met Mrs. Gell-Mann, who was Australian. My wife and I had taken our son to the paddling pool of the hotel; he fell over while in the middle of the pool, and I waded in to stop his drowning. This heroic rescue was watched by, among others, Mrs. Gell-Mann, who came up to me and said that she had never seen anyone move so fast. I had to throw my shoes away, however, as the pool was salt-water. I believe that I met her again in Gothenberg in 1968, at the Nobel Symposium.
To learn more about Salam, click here and the follow the route to Physics 1979, the year Salam won the Nobel prize. For more, see a short biography .
Go to my HOME PAGE for references to my publications and links to the pages of co-workers.
© 13/4/00 by Ray Streater.