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Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, has died

Steven Weinberg (right) along with his colleague Sheldon Glashow, who also won the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics. (Image credit: Bettmann / Contributor/Getty)

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel-prize winning physicist whose work helped link two of the four fundamental forces, has died at the age of 88, the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) announced Saturday (July 24). 

HIs work was foundational to the Standard Model, the overarching physics theory that describes how subatomic particles behave. His seminal work was a slim, three-page paper published in 1967 in the journal Physical Review Letters and entitled "A Model of Leptons." In it, he predicted how subatomic particles known as W, Z and the famous Higgs boson should behave — years before those particles were detected experimentally, according to a statement from UT Austin.

The paper also helped unify the electromagnetic force and the weak force  and predicted that so-called "neutral weak currents" governed how particles would interact, according to the statement. In 1979, Weinberg and physicists Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam earned the Nobel Prize in physics for this work. Throughout his life, Weinberg would continue his search for a unified theory that would unite all four forces, according to the statement. 

Weinberg also had a knack for making physics accessible to everyone. His book "The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe," (Basic Books, 1977) described, in exciting and simple language, those first minutes of the universe's infancy and laid out the case for the expansion of the universe. 

"Professor Weinberg unlocked the mysteries of the universe for millions of people, enriching humanity's concept of nature and our relationship to the world," said Jay Hartzell, president of UT Austin, said in the statement. "From his students to science enthusiasts, from astrophysicists to public decision makers, he made an enormous difference in our understanding. In short, he changed the world."

Weinberg was born in New York in 1933. His love of science began with a chemistry set, according to the statement. By the time he was 16, he had decided to study theoretical physics, Weinberg wrote on the Nobel Prize website. He attended Cornell University for his undergraduate work and earned a doctorate in physics from Princeton University in 1957.

He married his wife Louise in 1954 and had a daughter, Elizabeth, in 1963, according to the Nobel Prize website. In 1982, Weinberg moved to UT Austin, where he was a professor of physics and astronomy for decades.

No cause of death was disclosed, but the physicist had been hospitalized for weeks, according to The Washington Post.

Originally published on Live Science.

Tia Ghose

Tia is the assistant managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.