Nicholas Kemmer. 7 December 1911 -- 21 October 1998

F. Dyson
2011 Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society  
Nicholas Kemmer was a theoretical physicist whose most famous contribution to science was the prediction in 1938 of the existence of three kinds of particle-one positive, one negative and one neutral-coupled to protons and neutrons in a symmetrical way so as to produce nuclear forces independent of charge. Three particle species were discovered experimentally 10 years later and found to have the nuclear couplings specified by Kemmer. They are the particles now known as π mesons or pions. Other
more » ... ets of three species with the same symmetry were discovered later. The long interval between prediction and verification was caused by World War ii, which interrupted the progress of particle physics in general and Kemmer's career in particular. after the war he devoted his life to teaching rather than research, and became a beloved mentor and friend to several generations of younger physicists. among the scientists that he launched into successful research careers are abdus salam Frs (Nobel laureate), Paul matthews Frs, richard Dalitz Frs and the present writer. in the american mathematical society mathematical Genealogy Project, which includes physicists as well as mathematicians, Kemmer is academic ancestor to 217 descendants. LiFe i divide the memoir into two parts, the life and the work. Kemmer's life began in st Petersburg in 1911, where he was born into a russian family belonging to the Baltic German minority of the russian empire. Baltic Germans frequently occupied high positions in the imperial government. Kemmer's father was trained as an engineer and rose rapidly to a high rank in the ministry of Ways and communications. in 1916, the blackest year of World War i for both Britain and russia, Kemmer's father travelled with his family from st Petersburg to london to purchase British railway rolling stock for the disintegrating russian army. luckily for the family and for six-year-old Nicholas, they were safe in
doi:10.1098/rsbm.2011.0008 fatcat:mbfnhp3xhvd6hlookvmys77iwm